More than 3,500 McKinney ISD parents initially joined a telephone town hall meeting Tuesday night about a proposed high school rezoning map. The district placed automated calls to all 25,000 of its parents to invite them to participate in the town hall meeting.
The district held the meeting to allow parents the chance to ask rezoning questions directly to the board members. “The purpose of this meeting is to expand participation and gather input,” MISD School Board President Curtis Rippee said.
During the one-hour conference call, the call volume hovered around 1,000 participants, MISD Chief Communications Officer Cody Cunningham told TownSquareBuzz.com after the meeting. The district has also been gathering feedback from residents through an online feedback forum. Cunningham said the district has received more than 400 comments through the online forum after the initial draft of the map was released in December.
Once parents were on the call, they were directed to dial “0” if they had a question. From there, the parents were directed to a moderator who collated the questions. The moderator would then choose the most frequently asked questions and connect a parent with the board members via conference call to ask their question.
The questions ranged from confusion over the grandfathering that will be allowed under the current proposal to why one elementary school is set to be split, with half of its students going to McKinney High School and the other half going to McKinney Boyd.
“I want to reiterate that this (map) is a first draft,” MISD Superintendent Dr. J.D. Kennedy told parents at the end of the call. “This is a draft. We will take the input that we have received and work on that. We certainly need to take into consideration the concerns that were laid out here tonight.”
The board members also laid out the timeline of altering the proposal and approving a final map as well. Rippee told the parents that the board would not answer every question during the town hall, but the board would be reconvening on Tuesday, Jan. 21 to discuss all of the issues raised by parents during the call and in the online feedback.
During that meeting, Rippee said that the board might make changes to the proposal. If changes are made, he added, a new map would be presented to the public soon after that meeting. From there, the board would allow parents to make additional comments on the new rezoning map online and during another telephone town hall on Monday, Jan. 27.
“Right now, we have the official vote scheduled for Jan. 28,” Rippee said. “If we feel that we can’t make that vote at that time, we will schedule a new meeting. But we are on a tight time frame so we can get students registered for 2014-2015 school year.”
The most common complaint during the town hall was from parents whose children currently attend Wolford Elementary. The current rezoning map would split the Wolford students and send some to McKinney High School and some to McKinney Boyd High School.
Several parents said that they were not in favor of the current map because of the proposed split. “Splitting up the kids is more detrimental than beneficial,” said one parent. Kennedy responded to that question by saying that the current proposed map is “a draft” and that “changes certainly could be made.”
Another parent stated that her neighborhood has been rezoned three times in 11 years. One parent told the board that his children don’t understand the proposed map and why they might be sent to another high school. “If it doesn’t make sense to our children, how can I get behind it as a parent?” he said. “And at the end of the day isn’t that who we all work for?”
Rippee said that splitting schools “sometimes is unfortunately necessary” due to geographic and other factors. “I think this map actually does a better job than the previous map of bringing neighborhoods closer to their respective high school,” Rippee said. “I think it would be almost impossible to make a map with only proximity in mind.”
School Board Vice President Amy Dankel tried to assuage those concerns as. “Our plan is to not rezone any time in the near future,” she said.
While MISD may not be rezoning the high schools again any time soon, Kennedy acknowledged that rezoning may be coming to McKinney’s middle schools and elementary schools in the future. “Once the remodeling of Dowell Middle School is complete, we will need to address the zoning of our middle schools,” he said. “Probably, due to that, we ought to probably look at doing some rezoning for the elementary schools to smooth the boundaries in certain areas.”
The board was also asked if a fourth high school would be coming as McKinney continues to grow. Rippee said that the district has plans for a fourth and fifth high school to address the projected growth in the northern parts of McKinney. “Growth of the city drives when a new high school will be built,” Rippee said. “That won’t happen until perhaps 2020.”
Rippee told the parents on the call that no matter where their children go to high school, he believes they will be well taken care of. “All three high schools are outstanding schools,” he said. “All three of our high schools have quality people.”