With the new Earl and Marthalu Dieterich Middle School set to open next August, middle school attendance zones in the Midlothian Independent School District will have to be redrawn. The district has completed a major step in the process of undertaking that task.
A final draft of the district’s middle school attendance zones was presented to the MISD board of trustees at its Oct. 21 regularly monthly meeting. The plan generally uses the two major highways — U.S. 67 and U.S. 287 — as boundaries, with the exception of the downtown area, which will remain in Frank Seale Middle School’s zone.
Frank Seale’s zone takes in the northwest third of the district as well as the old downtown area, while Walnut Grove Middle School will cover the northeast third, and Dieterich Middle School the southern third.
Karen Fitzgerald, MISD’s chief communications officer, said the board parameters for the process included:
● Balancing middle school enrollment and demographics;
● Keeping neighborhoods and subdivisions intact;
● Leveraging natural markers for boundaries;
● Ensuring systems efficiency including transportation;
● Following Board policy related to grandfathering.
“I do want to say thank you … to all the committee members and Ms. Fitzgerald for organizing that,” board president Matt Sanders said. “We’ve battled zoning now that growth is here upon us, so that was a great team effort.”
Added board trustee Gary Vineyard: “You guys did a phenomenal job. It was just amazing, and we really appreciate the amount of time and dedication is takes to do that. You get a small sample of what we as board members have to decide on and the very hard decisions it takes when we have to do this type of job.”
Seth Rowney, chair of the middle school zoning committee, said the committee went through all the pros and cons of the final plan and also obtained feedback from middle school principals and transportation.
“We’re not going to make everybody happy, but the fact that this group of people was able to come together and all agree on something says that it’s a solid map,” Rowney said.
In a short video presentation, staff liaison Culley Franks pointed out that rising eighth-graders in the 2020-2021 school year can choose to remain at their current campus.
Valerie Boyd, vice chair of the committee, said that no additional elementary schools will be split, the exception being Longbranch Elementary. Also, no additional bus routes will be needed.
Boyd said the enrollment numbers will be unbalanced at first, but will even out as expected new home construction proceeds.
“We did feel like this was a pretty good equalization of our demographics, so one school’s not exceeding one income level or one ethnicity (level), ” Boyd told the board. “We are spread out, and that’s what we were trying to do with the direction that you gave us.”
The committee held three community input sessions on Monday and Tuesday at the L.A. Mills administration building boardroom. Eduardo Gonzalez, committee secretary, said comments can also be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There’s a method to our madness, and sometimes people don’t see that,” Gonzalez said. “I believe every line that was drawn, there was a purpose and a reason to it.”
The committee will collect the public input and will meet Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 to take comments into consideration. After the final decision is made, the committee will present it to the board at its Nov. 18 monthly meeting, and the board is expected to take final action at its Dec. 16 meeting.
Rowney praised the committee members and their involvement in the process. The committee met a total of five times over five weeks, starting on Sept. 17 with a bus tour of the 112-square-mile district, studying enrollment, demographics and bus routes, and generally trying to balance out zones.
Rowney said the committee, as individuals, was able to see past things that might matter to them personally for the betterment of the group.
“One of the items we stressed the most was engagement, “ Rowney said. “We had great interaction with everyone that was here. People weren’t just there to be a face. Everyone spoke up and we had great participation. It was a very smooth, streamlined process.”