Sharyland board approves rezoning two elementary campuses

MISSION — Sharyland school district officials are redrawing campus lines in order to fill empty seats at one elementary school and accommodate demand at another.

The board of trustees approved the rezoning of two elementary schools, Jessie Jensen and John H. Shary, on Tuesday evening in order to cope with a steady increase in enrollment at Jensen and expected continuous decrease at Shary.

Starting with the 2018-19 school year, Shary Elementary’s reach will encompass the area bounded by Mile 3 North Road and Mile 4 North Road, between North Shary Road and North Stewart Road, which was previously zoned for Jensen Elementary.

“We have projected that 88 elementary students living in that zone would be moving to Jensen Elementary in the next school year,” said Pam Montalvo, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

The move will be mandatory for all elementary students living in this area except current fifth graders, who will be grandfathered in and given the option to stay and finish their sixth grade at Jensen. The district is also making a one-year exception for younger siblings of current fifth graders who are attending this campus to make it easier on parents, but after the sixth-grader moves on to junior high, the rest of the family will be required to transfer to Shary.

At Jensen an increase in enrollment was projected through a demographic study conducted by the district a few years ago. The increase was mainly due to construction of new housing in the area, she said, while at Shary Elementary the decrease has been steady for the past years.

Shary Elementary went from having 751 students during the 2014-15 school year, to 728 students in 2015-16, 703 students in 2016-17, and the current number of 672 students. This is mainly due to the aging population of the area assigned to Shary Elementary, as there are not enough families with young children.

“You can slowly see the decline,” she said. “And according to the demographic study it’s going to continue to decline at that rate.”

The study also pointed out a decrease in enrollment at Ruben Hinojosa Elementary, where the district approved open transfer policy for anybody within the Sharyland school district last year. The school did see an increase of about 50 students during this school year, Montalvo said, and the plan is to leave Hinojosa Elementary with an open transfer policy for the upcoming school year as they continue to assess its numbers.

“Their population was decreasing and according to the demographic study, just in the houses of that neighborhood, we weren’t going to get a lot of enrollment out of that particular zone,” she said.

Other districts in the area, including McAllen ISD, have been pondering options to redraw lines and even close campuses to accommodate to the district’s changing demographics. Montalvo said it is important to try to find options that will ensure more equity throughout the district.

“If you have big discrepancies between your schools you are looking at inequity among access to everything for students,” she said. “Most public schools are seeing a decline in their enrollment so they are trying to counteract that, but if you don’t address it now you will be faced with the fact that you’ll have a school that is not cost effective to keep open.”

The next step for Sharyland school district administrators will be to notify the families of those who will be asked to transfer from Jensen to Shary elementary and plan meetups with their new school principal so that they get acquainted before the beginning of the school year.

“We will have a meeting with them and letting know their options and just walking them through the process,” Montalvo said. “We will be taking the principal, which is Rebekah Gerlach; she’ll be going over to meet the families.”