Richardson ISD will consolidate four elementary schools and discontinue a preschool program under a new plan introduced to trustees Thursday night. “Project RightSize” will address the district’s financial woes resulting from decreasing student enrollment and insufficient state funding.

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Thurgood Marshall Elementary in Lake Highlands is currently just 59% full and would be consolidated with nearby schools next year, as would Springridge (Berkner feeder pattern, 59% full), Spring Valley (Richardson, 56%) and Greenwood Hills (Pearce, 59%). The Pre-K program at Dobie would be eliminated in 2025. Thurgood Marshall students would be shifted into Forestridge (69%), Audelia Creek (67%), Forest Lane (63%), Skyview (71%) and Northlake (94%).

The Thurgood Marshall building will become the Thurgood Marshall Learning Center and home to an accelerated high school graduation program currently named Memorial Park Academy, a new district-wide law-based program for secondary students, and the district alternative education program currently housed at the Christa McAuliffe Learning Center. The current Christa McAuliffe Learning Center building will be repurposed for the transportation department, and the current Memorial Park Academy location will be used for professional learning and meeting space.

School districts receive funding from the state based on student enrollment, and the Texas legislature hasn’t increased per-pupil funding since before the pandemic — despite historic inflation. RISD serves about 37,000 students today, down from about 42,000 before the pandemic. Demographers expect continued declines in overall enrollment.

That’s a double whammy for RISD.

Elementary schools will see significant declines next year when the district begins implementing its middle school education model and moves sixth graders to junior high campuses. More than 12,000 elementary school seats are expected to sit empty after the move.

That’s the district’s third strike, forcing Superintendent Tabitha Branum and her staff to make dramatic changes.

In a letter posted to the district’s website, Branum explained the decision-making process which led to her school consolidation proposal.

“Project RightSize represents a major element of our school district plan to reduce the 2024-25 projected operating budget deficit and simultaneously address longtime inefficiencies in how RISD elementary schools are zoned and operated,” she wrote. “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.”

RISD staff carefully considered recommendations by the Community Budget Steering Committee, made up of more than 60 parents, community members, business partners and campus employees, who met for six months to study the situation, Branum explained. Their goal was to impact the fewest number of students and staff possible while also protecting instructional programs.

“I encourage you to review this document to learn more about the factors considered when preparing this plan, including:

  • Excess classroom capacity
  • Enrollment trends and projected enrollment decline
  • Enrollment among residents within existing neighborhood attendance boundaries
  • Building ages and conditions
  • Academic opportunities
  • Natural combinations of attendance zones
  • Students being able to walk/bike to school
  • Maintaining feeder patterns
  • Bus routes and transportation costs
  • Central programs like special education and bilingual classes

Public information meetings will be held for each elementary, including one at Lake Highlands High School’s H Building auditorium Monday, March 4 at 6 p.m. Attendance boundary changes and the overal budget for 2024-25 will require approval by RISD trustees.