‘We’ve been waiting a long time’: Spring Branch ISD pauses school improvements due to $35M budget shortfall

SPRING BRANCH, Texas – Terrance Elementary School parents have been waiting for a redevelopment elementary school since voters approved a bond in 2017.

“Our building is one of the oldest buildings in Spring Branch, it’s over 50 years old. It’s outdated,” Morgan Pareja said. “We have an old classroom structure with open, it’s an open classroom structure so there’s no doors. We’re dealing with safety issues as well here.”

Pareja is a parent of a first grader and the school’s parent-teacher association president.

“Any extra delay is just like one more school year of students who aren’t able to benefit from that new building,” Pareja said.

She’s reacting to the Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees’ decision to pause the four remaining bond replacement projects at Terrace, Sherwood, Spring Shadows, and Thornwood Elementary Schools.

The district did so in an effort to save money as they anticipate $35 million reduction in the upcoming school year budget.

Superintendent Jennifer Blaine and the board blame state legislators for the cuts.

“These are decisions that neither the Board of Trustees nor district administration take lightly. We wish we were not in this situation, but our state leaders have left us no choice,” Blaine said in a letter to community ahead of Monday’s meeting.

District leaders said they anticipate the pause taking at least six months as they review operational costs, such as:

  • Review enrollment history at the four elementary schools
  • 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

In her capacity as PTA president, Pareja said she knows parents who live in the district choosing not to send their kids to Terrace.

“They’re choosing private schools. They’re choosing homeschools. And only part of it is what the building looks like, but it is a big part,” she said. “You walk in, and you see other schools especially on the southside and the other schools that have already been built here on the northside.”

At Monday’s meeting, the board also voted to move forward with a pre-kindergarten tuition increase to $778 a month – the first increase in four years. Leaders will also adjust pre-k school boundaries.

The Board of Trustees moving forward on increasing student to teacher ratio at some high schools from 23:1 to 25:1. Plus, the district will adopt seven-period schedules for high schools.

However, the board postponed a vote on closing Panda Path School for Early Learning and Treasure Forest Elementary School.

The room packed with people opposed the proposal several with neon ‘preserve Panda Path’ neon signs.

The board will vote on both proposals at its Nov. 27 board meeting.

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