Additional portable buildings provide needed classroom space to ease overcrowding at Dawson High School this year. But the long term solution will likely involve a November 2016 bond election, district administrators recently told trustees.
At a board meeting held Tuesday (Sept. 8), Don Tillis, Pearland ISD Director of Facilities and Planning, outlined a study showing enrollment counts and future projections. The report indicated two elementary schools are expected to exceed capacity next year and Berry Miller Junior High and Lawhon Elementary are already above capacity. Those issues could be addressed through “spot-rezoning” Tillis said. But Dawson High School, which has already exceeded its estimated maximum capacity by more than 400 students, is a different matter.
“That’s most likely something we’re going to have to address with a bond,” Tillis said.
Dawson High School was built in 2007 and was designed to house roughly 2,000 students.
According to the demographics report prepared by Templeton Demographics, enrollment at Pearland High School is expected to reach an all-time high of 3,214 next year. Trustee Charles Gooden questioned if overcrowding would become an issue there as well in the future. Although the campus is designed to offer sufficient classroom space for up to 3,850 students, district officials had previously speculated that having that many students might cause crowding problems in the hallways between classes and would add strain to the fine arts and sports programs, Trustee Pam Boegler said.
“My biggest concern right now is Dawson High School,” Boegler said.
“We worry about that. I think our short term answer is portables. We put a bunch there this year,” Superintendent Dr. John Kelly said.
Going forward, Dawson enrollment is expected to reach 2,500 by 2021.
“Long term, Don and I are convinced a new wing and other facilities are going to have to go into Dawson in that November 2016 bond election,” Dr. Kelly Said.
Another concern mentioned was overcrowding at Cockrell Elementary, which is expected to have 951 students next year and will exceed its estimated maximum capacity of 858 by 93 students. Enrollment this year came in just shy of that number at 854 students.
Harris Elementary School, which has an estimated maximum capacity of 770, has 745 students this year and is expected to reach an enrollment of 799 students next year.
Lawhon Elementary, which has an estimated maximum capacity of 638, reached an enrollment of 717 students this year and is expected to have 708 students next year.
Overall, the district gained 502 students this year to a total of 21,051. Over the next five years, the district expects enrollment to grow less than two percent each year to an expected total of 22,104 in 2020. In 2025, enrollment is expected to reach 22,801.
The demographics study also showed the racial makeup of the district’s student population has grown more diverse over the past five years. In 2014-15, roughly 30.6 percent of the student population was Hispanic, up from 26.1 percent in 2010-11. Roughly 40 percent of the student population was white last year, down from 44.7 percent five years ago. The population of African American students has gone from 16.3 percent in 2010-11 to 16 percent last year and Asian students have gone from 9.6 percent in 2010-11 to 10 percent last year.
On average, more than one of every four Pearland ISD students are considered economically disadvantaged with the percentage showing a slight increase over the last five years. In 2014-15, roughly 27 percent of the student population was economically disadvantaged, up from 26.4 percent five years ago.
Trustees took no formal action following the presentation.
“I see our next step is the community facilities committee gets together, looks at this report first and then goes out and looks at some of these campuses and the overcrowding issues and then builds that into the November 2016 bond election,” Dr. Kelly told trustees at the end of the discussion.