Report: Growth imminent for Liberty Hill school district

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By Lauren Jette

More growth is coming to Liberty Hill Independent School District, according to a demographic report presented to the Board of Trustees Monday night.

Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart presented a demographic report for the second quarter of 2015 to board members. The report is prepared quarterly for the district by School District Strategies, a Dallas-based company.

The report includes a demographic profile, update on new home construction, lot inventory and future growth patterns for the district.

Highlights from the profile state that LHISD’s overall population has increased since the 2010 Census by an estimated 2,247 people and has added an estimated 823 new households. The median age has increased to 40.6, with 21.2 percent of the total district population being between the ages of 5 and 17. Fifty-five percent of LHISD households earn more than $75,000 per year, which compares to Williamson County, which stands at 54 percent.

Builders in the district boundaries also set records for starting homes and closing on homes in the second quarter, starting 104 homes and closing close to 70 homes, compared to 62 and 47 respectively at this time last year, according to the report.

Due to this increase, Liberty Hill now ranks 11th in the greater Austin School District rankings by new home closings, topping Del Valle and Jarrell.

The median home price for the district also increased to $348,335, a 24 percent increase from this quarter last year, while the greater Austin median new home price stands at $282,276.

The report also states that there are currently 1,079 fully developed vacant lots on the ground, with more than 9,000 total future lots planned for the district.

A school district enrollment forecast, using a “moderate” 6.8 to 7.6 percent average growth rate, estimates that there will be 4,863 students in the district by 2020, with the district reaching more than 6,000 students by 2023.

“Based on these projections, the high school that we built to last 10 years is only going to last seven,” Hart said.

The report suggests that at current trends, the high school will be over capacity by 53 students by 2021. The high school opened in 2013.

“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” Hart said.

In the consent agenda, Hart shared current enrollment figures taken in the district after Labor Day. He said there are 3,464 students currently enrolled, meaning the district picked up 196 students between the end of the previous school year and start of this school year. The high school saw 103 new students, while Bill Burden Elementary School added 81 new students. The official enrollment date where the district will take count and send the numbers to UIL will be at the end of October, Hart told board members.

With the current enrollment figure, the district is sitting above the cutoff for the 4A classification, he added. UIL will set the cutoff numbers for the different classifications once all district numbers have been received, Hart said.

The new UIL realignments will be released in February 2016. Hart also asked the board to approve an additional Pre-K teaching position.

“This grows every year,” Hart said of the age group.

He added that there is an available room in the portable building that was added to the elementary campus for this school year, and that they are currently pushing 80 Pre-K students. Board members approved the position.

Board members approved an adjunct faculty agreement with AgriLife Extension-Williamson County and a resolution for extracurricular status of 4-H members.

Trustees also heard the annual presentation of the School Health Advisory Committee from Chairman John Clark, who shared who is on the committee and what they have been working on the past year.

After a 37-minute closed session, the board heard public comments.

The City of Liberty Hill’s Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Kirk Clennan introduced himself to the board.

Former SHAC member and parent Valerie Zapien read a prepared statement, stating that she had tried for several months to get on the board meeting agendas, but was unable to, but that she and other parents concerned about the reduced PE time at the elementary school would not be going away.

Five other parents, along with her husband and two children, stood with Zapien while she spoke to the board.

When school administrators made the decision to reduce PE classes to every other day at the elementary school due to space constraints at the end of the last school year, Zapien spearheaded a movement to push the school to reverse that decision.

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