Spring Branch ISD to vote on closing several schools as they face $35M deficit in school funding

Spring Branch ISD to host board meeting to discuss budget issues

District officials with Spring Branch Independent School District say they’re on the brink of closing one of its elementary schools to deal with the shortfalls of school funding.

“Yesterday (Monday) was a very difficult day,” said Lisa Alpe, a member of the Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees.

Treasure Forest Elementary School is at the top of the district’s first phase of proposed cuts. If the Board of Trustees votes to move forward with the recommendations, the plan is to close the elementary school and have students go to ones nearby.

“As much as possible we want to lessen the impact to the community. This happens to be a cluster of three elementary schools that were in close proximity that all have been under-enrolled in the last decade or so,” Alpe said.

Students at Treasure Forest would go to either Ridgecrest or Housman Elementary School.

Parents and former employees at Treasure Forest spoke out against the move during Monday’s board meeting questioning why the district chose a school with the majority of low socioeconomic students.

District leaders said it was chosen for a variety of reasons.

“We have to look at a couple of things,” said Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Blaine. “Not only are you looking at schools that are under-enrolled but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. You also have to look at what your backbone operation can support.”

The district projects teachers and teacher aids will follow students. Other stuff will fill vacancies across the district.

Also, part of Phase One of cuts is closing Panda Path Pre-K, where the district leases the building. Leaders believe it could save close to $1 million. The district is also considering increasing tuition to $778 a month.

District leaders believe they could save close to $2 million by increasing the student teacher ratio at the high schools from 20 students to one teacher to 23 students to one teacher. This would result in teacher terminations.

“It almost seems overwhelming at times because when you get right down to it, over 85% of our budget is people,” Alpe said. “And so, really those measures of closing schools – they get you a little way towards that $35 million. But unfortunately, the bulk of what we’re going to look at are people’s jobs.”

The district anticipates pausing improves at area schools. Spring Branch ISD voters passed a 2017 bond to rebuild several elementary schools.

Sherwood Elementary, Spring Shadows Elementary, Terrace Elementary, Thornwood Elementary are the remaining schools.

“We need to look at the demographics to decide, ‘do we really need to build four new schools or can we possibly build a bigger school and combine that into maybe three schools,” said Alpe.

A presentation school leaders shared with the community states the review will include:

  • perform a District wide Demographic Study
  • review attendance boundaries
  • review Bond Programs’ plans and schedules
  • study campus/facility options for possible cost efficiencies
  • study ongoing or long-term campus operational costs, such as staffing and building operations

Other districts tell KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun they’re facing financial issues.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Budget Statement:

“We entered the 88th legislative session earlier this year with four critical priorities related to school finance. Priority number one was for legislators to increase the Basic Allotment (BA) by $1,000 and add an inflationary index. The Basic Allotment is currently $6,160 and has not been increased since 2019 (and has no inflationary factor). If there are no drastic improvements related to public education funding in this or future special sessions, CFISD will be faced with extremely difficult budget decisions that will negatively impact district programs, students and employees.”

Katy ISD Budget Statement:

“The district is monitoring the legislature’s activity regarding public education funding and specifically the basic allotment per student, which has remained stagnant since 2019. As it currently stands, the Texas school finance system does not increase funding when inflation rises. If public school funding remains stagnant, Katy ISD, like most districts across the state, will see a strain to the budget that would inevitably impact programs and resources.”

KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun has more on this story at 6 p.m.

About the Authors:

A graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, Ana moved to H-Town from sunny southern California in 2015. In 2020, she joined the KPRC 2 digital team as an intern. Ana is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, a catmom of 3, and an aquarium enthusiast. In her spare time, she's an avid video gamer and loves to travel.