Pflugerville ISD is considering closing several elementary schools. The district wants feedback.
Pflugerville ISD families filled the cafeteria at Dessau Elementary School on Monday night. They were there for one of the first public meetings the school district is holding on 10 proposals to change attendance boundaries during the 2023-2024 school year.
The PfISD school board is considering a variety of scenarios. Two would shift where some high school students go to school, and seven of the plans would close two to three elementary campuses. One proposal would not close any elementary schools. The six elementary schools that could be shuttered are Dessau, Parmer Lane, River Oaks, Spring Hill, Brook Hollow and Pflugerville.
District staff first announced the possible closures at a school board meeting in mid-December, before the district’s winter break. At that meeting, Superintendent Douglas Killian railed against insufficient state funding for public education. He said closures were a way to save money but no decisions had been made yet.
Alma Gonzalez de Castillo, a PfISD official, reiterated that message to families at Dessau.
“The information shared is a draft, and we need your help to refine and identify the flaws in these plans,” she said. “We know this is emotional and it feels personal, and it does to us, too.”
She and other PfISD staff said closures are on the table because the district is facing declining enrollment. Since the pandemic started in 2020, the number of students leaving PfISD schools has exceeded the number of students who are enrolling. During the current school year, for example, PfISD had 3,139 new students, while 3,325 students left the district.
Even though enrollment overall is down, certain campuses are projected to exceed their capacity if boundaries are not adjusted. While schools in the southwestern part of the district are operating below capacity, those in the northeastern part of the district are growing.
Enrollment numbers were one of the factors the PfISD boundary steering committee considered when coming up with the proposals for the school board to consider. Other criteria included building age, academic performance, and the impact on transportation and neighborhoods.
Dessau, for example, was built in 1987. It has room for 850 students and is at 67% of its capacity. The district wants campuses to be at least 80% full to be considered efficient. Dessau would be closed in four of the 10 proposals.
After the presentation, families had a chance to share their feedback. Speakers had two minutes to make remarks. District officials also declined to answer questions, saying they were there to listen. They said the questions will be used to create a "Frequently Asked Questions" section online.
The questions and concerns ran the gamut. One parent said closing schools could lead to higher transportation costs, an issue Superintendent Killian also raised last month. Another parent said it could disrupt students’ access to special education services. Others also said the process is happening so quickly that many parents might not even know about the proposed closures or boundary changes that could impact their kids in middle and high school.
For her part, Shawna Loberg was shocked PfISD was considering closures. She has two children at Parmer Lane Elementary, which could also be shut down.
"Why would we be closing schools? That makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Loberg said. “I was a little angry because we had literally just had an election where we passed all of these bonds to improve our schools and now you're telling us you're going to close some of these schools? Again, doesn't make any sense to me."
Even though Loberg is a parent of a Parmer Lane Elementary student and president of that school's Parent-Teacher Organization, she attended the meeting at Dessau to see how the district is presenting the plans.
“Some of the plans that they talked about tonight involve our school, whether it be closing or rezoning our school because some of the other schools in our area would be closing,” she said.
Loberg said she did not like that PfISD officials are not answering questions in person.
“I guess that’s just very frustrating because they’re presenting this and potentially changing the lives of us and our children and they have no answers for us,” she said.
But Kathy Guerra Hickok, PfISD’s director of student data and demographics, said she hopes parents walk away from the meetings with a better understanding of the proposals.
“We want to make sure we’re as transparent as possible because we’re talking about their kids,” she said.
Hickok added, as other district officials have, that they want feedback.
“Nothing’s written in stone," she said. "Your input matters."
The next two meetings will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10. Both begin at 6:30 p.m. One is at Connally High School, and the other is at Spring Hill Elementary.
The last six meetings will be on Jan. 11, Jan. 17 and Jan. 18. The full schedule is available here.
Correction: This story previously listed incorrect dates for PfISD's upcoming public meetings. They have been corrected.