LHISD outlines new campus boundary plan

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

With construction ahead of schedule and the planned opening of the new Santa Rita Elementary just over three months away, Liberty Hill ISD is focusing on rounding out a staff and narrowing down which students will fill those classrooms in the fall.

The district wants to balance out the student population on each campus as much as possible, but with one eye on where future growth is coming.

“We definitely don’t want to overcrowd our buildings and we want to stay ahead of the curve,” Superintendent Steve Snell said of the decision process on attendance zones. “Looking at the schools we have and looking at future campuses, we want to make sure we have space for our kids. Secondly, we want to limit the amount of movement a single family might have.”

With that one eye on future growth patterns, the plan is to open Santa Rita Elementary with about 400 students in August.

“Looking at the high-density areas, if you take just the neighborhoods of Santa Rita South, Santa Rita North, MorningStar and Cross Creek Ranch, if we just used those neighborhoods to open Santa Rita Elementary, that would start us off – kindergarten through fourth grade – at just under 400 students,” Snell said.

The student population will grow quickly, and opening with that smaller number has advantages.

“Looking at the growth, that helps us with two things,” Snell said. “It helps us financially on our maintenance and operations budget and it also helps us manage growth going forward in reducing the amount of movement families in those neighborhoods would have to make.”

The following year the plan is to add fifth grade to the elementary campuses as Liberty Hill Intermediate transitions to a fifth elementary school, and that will impact student numbers on all campuses.

“Adding fifth grade the next year Santa Rita would be projected to have 600 students, and moving forward to the 2022 school year, with the fast growth and houses being built, we would expect to have 750 students,” Snell said. “By the end of 2023, Santa Rita Elementary, with just those neighborhoods, would have close to 900 students.”

Under this plan, there will be no moving of students from Santa Rita until it gets to a point where the district has to build another school within that particular attendance boundary.

“We’re using growth projections and space in our schools to limit the amount of movement a family might have,” Snell said.

If the district were not opening Santa Rita Elementary next fall, Snell said Rancho Sienna Elementary would have over 1,100 students. With the new school opening its doors, the projection is there will be 700 students at Rancho Sienna.

“The following year when we add fifth grade they would have 760 and the following year up to 967 and the following year up to 1,200 students,” Snell said. “The amount of growth is tremendous.”

When Liberty Hill Intermediate is reopened as a fifth elementary school for the 2021-2022 school year, it will ease student growth district-wide.

“That will help alleviate crowding and growth in Liberty Hill Elementary, Bill Burden, and the northern part of Rancho Sienna might draw toward that school as well,” Snell said.

The rate of growth in Liberty Hill ISD remains high, with the 10-year projection showing the district’s student population at 14,000 on the low end and 22,000 on the high end.

“By 2024, we are projected to double in growth,” Snell said. “The slow model has us at 8,500 kids and the fast-growth model has us at 10,000 students. If you fast-forward another five years they have us doubling again. That is incredible to think about.”

Growth is projected at all ends of the district, but the most growth is projected in the area around the new Santa Rita campus.

“The highest density part of this population growth is around Ronald Reagan and Hwy 29 intersection,” Snell said. “If you think about the neighborhoods that currently feed Rancho Sienna that is our fastest growth in our district and the most dense part of the district. In the north part of Santa Rita, they’re projected to build another 3,500 homes that are in Liberty Hill ISD. Lively Ranch is also a neighborhood that is going to build a lot of houses with 1,000 more houses they’re projecting.”

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