Pearland ISD enrollment continues to grow. This is especially true in the western part of our district. Of the 23 campuses in Pearland ISD, the most crowded campus (enrollment vs. capacity) is Dawson High School. Dawson had 2,150 students at its peak this year. Architect estimates and opinions differ on the building’s total capacity but enrollment above 2,200 students clearly forecasts problems.
Several steps were considered by the Board and administration to plan ahead for managing this growth. We’re opening Turner College and Career High School, located on Bailey Road, in Fall 2013. It is a high school of choice, and as of this date, we have approximately 730 solid reservations for next year with at least 150 of them coming from the Dawson attendance area. Thus, we estimate that Dawson HS will open with approximately the same number of students now attending there — because of this new high school choice.
But there is an emotional second issue associated with Dawson HS enrollment. That school has enjoyed a dominant presence as a 4A high school, winning many academic, athletic, and fine arts honors. Their current and anticipated enrollments are already over the 4A/5A cut-off, meaning they would likely be re-classified as a 5A school in 2014 unless more of the Dawson HS attendance zone is moved to the Pearland HS zone.
To remain 4A, approximately 200 students would need to be re-zoned from Dawson to Pearland prior to Fall 2013. We predict the rezoning of another 200 needed only 2 years from then. This cycle would continue thereafter with continued re-zoning.
Realizing there are many advantages to keeping things as they are (i.e. PHS as a 5A high school and DHS as a 4A), we sought some definitive answers from the UIL (which governs these classification matters) on how to maintain our current 4A Classification for Dawson. But we found out that ALL students living within a school’s attendance area count toward that school’s enrollment classification — even if they attend a school of choice (like Turner HS) or an Alternative School (like the PACE Center). UIL offers no ifs, ands, or buts.
Therefore, the only way to maintain Dawson HS as a 4A school is to rezone high school attendance areas as described above. Here’s the problem: Not only would this be viewed very unfavorably by the re-zoned families, but the Principal, administrators, and coaches believe that Dawson HS will be LESS competitive as a fractured 4A school! Consequently the Board voted this month to avoid re-zoning attendance areas. As a result, it is almost certain Dawson HS will join the 5A classification effective Fall 2014. Why? We estimate the total Dawson HS attendance zone will consist of approximately 2,275 students in Fall 2013 – well above the current cut-off for 4A/5A of 2,090 students.
In short, Pearland ISD can help manage overcrowding through enrolling students at Turner HS and the PACE Center but can’t change the Dawson HS UIL classification count through such enrollments.
There are heartfelt desires to avoid a rivalry between two Pearland 5A high schools but the alternative appears worse. So our administrators and coaches are looking forward and planning. For example, they are planning the first fall football scrimmage of the year in fall 2013 between our two high schools. The idea is to promote a coming together of the community for this event rather than a negative rivalry. While a competitive rivalry will grow — we are hopeful it will be of a positive nature.
My opinion: Since the goal is to relieve overcrowding at Dawson and simultaneously maximize the opportunity to compete against other high schools, it is counter-productive to immediately rezone attendance areas. I’ll be glad to answer any questions folks have. Just leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.