New MISD attendance zones set for 2022

HHS expansion likely to assure school’s promotion to 5A; other lines drawn

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
This map shows the proposed new attendance zones for Midlothian and Heritage High Schools approved by the Midlothian ISD board of trustees last week. The new zoning won't go into effect until the fall of 2022.

The Midlothian Independent School District board of trustees had a lot of big-ticket items on its agenda during its April 19 regular monthly meeting. Perhaps the one with the largest impact was the decision of rezoning the district’s 13 existing and future schools at all grade levels for the 2022-2023 school year.

The board unanimously approved a major shift in attendance boundaries that will all but ensure that Heritage High School will join Midlothian High School in the Class 5A ranks by the fall of 2024, if not sooner.

MHS currently has double the population of HHS, but HHS’ capacity is being increased through a 2016 bond issue and the greater residential growth at present is in the Heritage zone. To create an enrollment and socioeconomic balance, an option was chosen that aligns with elementary and middle school boundaries and should remain stable or the next six years, rezoning committee member Steven Peña told trustees.

Under the new zoning, HHS will have a 1,786 projected enrollment and MHS will be at 1,865 by the fall of 2023, Peña told the board. Both numbers fall within the Class 5A range and below the 2020 cutoff numbers between Division I and Division II football, which is expected to rise in the next realignment cycle.

All new zoning won’t go into effect until the fall of 2022. MISD assistant superintendent of engagement and strategic innovation Karen Fitzgerald told trustees that the opening of a new elementary school and the HHS expansion give the district an opportunity to move forward with rezoning now, so that parents will have an opportunity to plan ahead for the next year.

At the elementary level, the new, soon-to-be-named Elementary School No. 8 at the intersection of South 14th Street and Hawkins Run Road will relieve enrollment at J.R. Irvin, Larue Miller and Mountain Peak Elementaries when it opens in August 2022.

Because MISD doesn’t have an exactly even feeder pattern of elementary and middle schools, zoning at the middle school level was challenging, committee member Eduardo González said.

The main changes that were chosen are switching some students on the far east side of the district to Earl and Marthalu Dieterich Middle School while shifting all of the Baxter Elementary zone to Walnut Grove Middle School, González said. Additionally, Frank Seale Middle School students south of U.S. Highway 287 will shift to Dieterich.

Committee members involved in the rezoning process were made up of staff, parents and students, committee member Valerie Boyd told trustees. Final recommendations were based on extensive study of data as well as community input.

Boyd said the goals of the rezoning were to balance enrollment across MISD; keep subdivisions and neighborhoods intact as much as possible; leverage natural boundaries as much as possible; and review and follow district policy on grandfathering options.

The enrollment figures were supported later in the meeting by MISD demographer Brent Alexander, who noted the continued red-hot growth of the Metroplex home market and a record number of home starts in the fourth quarter of 2020 in his quarterly report to the district.

Alexander said it was “certainly possible” for enrollment growth in MISD to resume its pre-COVID growth rate of about 4 percent per year.

Other items

• The board recognized four military appointments from Midlothian High School: Landon Buford (U.S. Naval Academy), and Max Allen, Kaleb Tompkins and Corbin Green (U.S. Air Force Academy). Also recognized was National Merit Finalist Lauren Sims of Heritage High School, ranking among the top one percent in the nation among national college entrance test scorers.

• Recipients of the Midlothian Education Foundation grants, members of the MHS state-qualifying powerlifting team and members of the HHS state champion girls’ soccer team were also recognized.

• The board approved the hiring of Khourie Jones as J.R. Irvin Elementary principal and Kara Wendel as principal of the new Elementary School No. 8.

• MISD human resources director Shorr Heathcote gave an overview on the district’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts since the pandemic began in earnest in March 2020.

• A pair of motions to require masks on all MISD transportation and to strongly recommend them in public areas starting on either May 3 or May 10 both failed to gain a majority with a 3-3 tie. A motion by trustee Tami Tobey to allow mask exemptions for philosophical or religious reasons was rejected. However, Tobey’s motion to allow face shields in lieu of masks was approved by a 5-1 vote.

• The board discussed the process of naming of the new elementary school as well as other district structures such as libraries and playgrounds. Committee members said they have developed a lengthy list of worthy namesake educators from MISD’s past. The new elementary is expected to be named at next month’s board meeting.

• With the pandemic expected to fade over the summer, virtual learning options were looked at for the 2021-2022 school year. Heathcote said the Texas Education Agency expects districts to be proactive, but ultimate approval will be based on legislative action or an extension of any TEA emergency order. A district survey showed that 13.2 percent of parents would opt for virtual learning if it were still offered, Heathcote said.

• The board approved a resolution to state officials regarding federal school emergency relief funds. Board vice president Andrea Walton said the district represents and values local control, and that there are multiple state funding sources available that offset the federal CARES Act. Walton said those monies are “a priority for our students and our taxpayers.”

• Board president Matt Sanders said all six active trustees have met the first three tiers of continuing education requirements and that the fourth and final tier will be completed in June for himself and trustee Gary Vineyard.