Local Parents Speak Out on School Closures

Richardson ISD
Richardson ISD | Image by Fox 4

Richardson Independent School District’s parents are voicing their concerns about several proposed permanent school closures announced last week.

Richardson ISD plans to close four elementary schools and one Pre-K school this upcoming school year as part of its Project RightSize initiative. According to the district, Springridge, Spring Valley, Greenwood Hills, and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools will be consolidated with other nearby schools next fall.

Each of these schools is reportedly at less than 60% capacity, and the ISD claims to have lost at least 2,2000 students since the pandemic lockdowns. The closure of these schools is just one of the recommendations in the proposed plan meant to “reduce the 2024-25 projected operating budget deficit and simultaneously address longtime inefficiencies in how RISD elementary schools are zoned and operated.”

“The goal with Project RightSize is to ensure that we are able to focus our finite budget dollars on student programs, activities, and continued academic growth, as well as prioritize compensation so the district can continue to recruit and retain the best educators and staff in N. Texas,” Superintendent Tabitha Branum said in the preface to the plan document.

The district hosted the first of its five listening tours where parents could comment on the proposal on February 26 at Pearce High School. Attending parents voiced their frustration at the prospect of consolidating Greenwood Hills Elementary.

School parent Travis Fitzgerald said he understood the district’s struggles given the lack of funding but voiced that his family had grown to love the school.

“It’s just a blow to know that that building won’t have students in it. Every time that I go walk my kids to school, that’s just one more day closer to where I won’t necessarily be able to do that,” said Fitzgerald, according to KERA.

Laurie Evans, another parent with three children in Richardson ISD, said her youngest would have to switch schools if the program is approved.

“The crappy thing is,” said Evans, per KERA, “they’re saying my kid can walk to Canyon Creek all the way down Campbell, across two major intersections. We’ve been there 11 years now. To have to switch our last two years kind of sucks.”

Branum said last week that the district is facing a significant lack of funding and could confront a deficit of $28.5 million if no changes are made to the system. This program is projected to yield annual savings of roughly $10.5 million, and the fewer bus routes would generate operational savings of about $300,000.

Texas Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) said in a statement that Gov. Greg Abbott is holding school funding “hostage” while a state voucher program is in the works. Ramos’ son is also a Richardson ISD student.

“I grieve with the parents preparing to uproot their children from familiar routings [sic] and friendships, and I am enraged at the failure of the Texas Legislature to act,” said Ramos, per KERA.

“We understand that the topic of consolidating schools can be an emotional one. Starting with this proposed plan, if school consolidations are approved, our team is committed to ensuring the thoughtful and people-centered implementation for next school year,” wrote Branum on Richardson ISD’s website. “I am proud of our students and teachers, and those who support them, and our duty is to continue to leverage our limited resources to provide the tools to meet academic growth goals.”

The next listening tour session, which will focus on Springridge Elementary, will be held at Berkner High School on February 27 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Richardson ISD has a B rating for student achievement, according to the Texas Education Agency’s accountability report for the 2021-2022 school year. The report reflects that 50% of students met grade level or above on their STAAR exams, with 92.6% of students graduating high school within four years.

In contrast, student performance at nearby Dallas ISD has been lackluster at best in recent years. Only 41% of students in the district scored at grade level on their STAAR exams, and nearly 20% of seniors failed to earn a diploma within four years, earning the school a C rating in the 2021-2022 school year.

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