At Tuesday night’s called work session, Richardson ISD staff and trustees discussed plans to address persistent growth and elementary overcrowding, and their primary solution was building two new elementary schools, but they also proposed secondary solutions as part of their two-phase plan.
One secondary solution involved investigating whether Northlake Elementary should be a magnet school, and that investigation has already begun, spearheaded by RISD Elementary Superintendent Chris Goodson. When trustee Dr. Kristen Kuhne asked if the investment made sense, given that applications by LH families for RISD magnet programs have not been overly numerous, RISD Superintendent for Secondary Education Tabitha Branum explained that one reason LH parents give for declining to participate in elementary magnet programs is the lack of secondary programs in LH – that is, Lake Highlands families do not want to enroll their children if they’ll be required to transfer to an RISD school outside of an LH feeder pattern to continue the magnet program. Branum then revealed that an LH secondary magnet program was being investigated, as well, bolstering the Northlake-as-magnet logic.
I asked Branum where the program might be located and whether it might require construction of new classrooms or a new wing at LHJH or Forest Meadow or even a third junior high.
“We are so early in the process of researching this possibility that those details have not been determined,” wrote Branum by email. “We do know the building addition at LHHS would give us an opportunity to design it in a ‘wing,’ but we would have to really be creative with the junior high implementation.”
The idea is interesting, since many parents of older students have been frustrated by RISD’s focus on addressing growth issues mostly at the elementary level. A tsunami of students are headed to the junior highs soon, they say – the same kids who are causing K-6 schools to burst at the seams now. RISD officials have hinted they could use the 2021 bond to handle junior high needs or add classrooms even sooner, but they haven’t been specific about numbers, dates or programs. Adding a secondary magnet program in LH could kill the proverbial bird with one stone.
RISD officials have not publicly addressed the number of classrooms needed at the junior high level, but 24 new classrooms at LHHS were funded by the 2016 bond.
Currently, Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet (HPPM) is LH’s only magnet school, and LH families seeking secondary magnet programs send their kids to West Jr. High (technology and arts magnet), Westwood Jr. High (leadership, science and math magnet) and/or Richardson High School (arts, law and science magnet).
We’ll let you know here on the blog if and when a magnet plan for Northlake and/or secondary schools develops.