Overcrowding at Dawson High School

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 kellyj@pearlandisd.org.

8 Responses to “Overcrowding at Dawson High School”

  1. 1 Tre October 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Dawson high school has way better athletic teams than Pearland thats why i never understood why Dawson didnt move up on the 3rd year it was open. Dr.John P.Kelley, why didnt dawson move up this year? Every football game that they have played has been a shut out except of the Texas City game and i gurantee that Dawson will go to state championship with Brett and Tony leading them.

    • 2 Dr. John P. Kelly February 3, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Dawson HS is moving to 6A, effective Fall 2014. These decisions are made by the state UIL, not by local districts. We are moving up because our enrollment now places us in the top category. I certainly do agree we have excellent coaches and that Dawson is ready for this big change!

  2. 3 Mike July 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I graduated PHS in ’01… and it was overcrowded then! What were they thinking by building a new school that would only hold 2200 kids? I would imagine that within 5 or 10 years Pearland could overcrowd three 5A schools.

    • 4 Dr. John P. Kelly February 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      It is difficult for school districts to accurately predict enrollment even 5 years in the future, let alone 10. I think that the Board/Administration who built Dawson HS intended for it to be 4A, not 5A. That’s why they designed it to be the size it is. Fortunately, we now have 3 high schools with Turner coming on line this past August. Our latest demographic report indicates that we should not need another high school. However, because of the number of students moving into the Dawson area, it is possible we could add some space to that high school – rather than re-zone students to PHS. Turner HS is a school of choice – and may also continue to relieve sufficient pressure off of Dawson HS enrollment – as they have done this year. Our demographers report that Pearland will likely be “built out” such that our maximum district wide enrollment should not increase by more than 2,000 students (of which only 1/3 would fill our high schools). Therefore, I think we’ll be okay with the current 3 high schools – albeit we may need to add some spaces to Dawson to accommodate the faster growth on that side of our district. We are right now (Spring 2014) finishing a district wide facilities study which will make recommendations on this subject – and could include some recommendations for adding space at Dawson.

  3. 5 Don May 28, 2013 at 10:33 am

    So when Dawson plays Pearland and Dawson is the home team, will we be sitting on the home side of The Rig?

    • 6 Dr. John P. Kelly May 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      Don: Remember that the re-alignment doesn’t go into effect until Fall 2014. And although we anticipate Dawson becoming 5A and also that they are put in the same UIL district as Pearland High, we won’t know that until February 2014, after which we can make definite plans. But we have had some preliminary discussions about seating arrangements in anticipation of all this happening:

      The Rig’s current capacity is approximately 9,000. If we determine there isn’t adequate space for both team’s spectators, we may move the venue to Reliant Stadium or somewhere else where we can ensure both sides have comfortable seating.

      Although these decisions are for the future, I would say that if Dawson HS is “home” for that game and we do play it in the Rig, then (similar to the Manvel/Dawson game of 2 years ago), we’d probably rope off part of the homeside to accommodate the “visiting” team so that both teams’ spectators “fit” in the Rig.


    • 7 Dr. John P. Kelly February 3, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      As of today (February 3, 2014) we’ve received our official UIL district alignment for 2014/15 and 2015/16. Both Pearland HS and Dawson HS move to the 6A conference – and will be side by side in the same UIL district. Essentially Dawson HS is added to the existing Pearland HS UIL district. Pearland HS will play Dawson HS in week 6 of the fall 2014 football schedule. During this first year, Pearland HS will be the home team. In the second year, Dawson HS will be the home team. But in both years, we’re going to have to determine how to sit everyone – which will be a chore. We have been looking at different possibilities and can let people know more in the coming months.

  4. 8 Amy Wimblery April 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I agree, the change from 4A to 5A has to happen and in my opinion Dawson should have been a 5A school all along . Do I hate that Pearland ISD has lost the small time feel? YES, being a graduate in 1991 I hoped my kids could attend a small high school like I did. Pearlands growth has happened faster than the district could keep up. Thank goodness a lot of neighborhoods across west of 518 although are in Pearland attend Alvin ISD schools… It was obvious by the growth that Dawson was going to only be 4A for a couple of years…I am glad that it has finally happened and it wont surprsie me when we have to start looking to another high school or expanding the walls at Dawson…

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