With Van Alstyne ISD planning to build another elementary school discussion has ramped up in recent months about the direction of the two campuses. In essence, a debate has sprung up in the community as to whether the district should keep each elementary school campus a Pre-K through grade 5 facility or have one campus designated as a PK through grade 2 facility and the other a grade 3 through 5 facility.

The district held a town hall meeting before its June 20 school board meeting in which parents spoke on their wishes for the future campus. Several who spoke expressed their concern that creating separated PK-5 facilities would foster an unhealthy competition between the two schools and split the community, while others expressed their desire to keep their kids in the same school for up to six years as opposed to having to send them to a new campus with new teachers and principals beginning in third grade.

The future of the elementary schools was on the agenda for Monday night’s VAISD School Board meeting. Superintendent Dr. John Spies talked of the current growth of the district (12 percent last year) and showed future projected numbers. He also discussed the need to keep costs on the new school to a minimum now as the district is expecting to have to build a new high school anywhere from 5-10 years out if current projections hold. Spies said the district needs to be ready for that expense and stated that the budget for the new elementary school is at $16 million “and it will cost every bit of that.”

“Hopefully, the worst case scenario has us building a high school in about seven years,” Spies added.

Trustee David Kerr, however, cautioned that demographic studies in the past suggested that at this point the district would be up to four elementary schools instead of the one currently in the district. He also stated that the district needs to be careful to spend whatever is necessary in keeping the current elementary school on par with the new school whenever it opens its doors.

At this point, discussion shifted to community sentiment. Trustee Steve Roddy expressed again his desire to have parents surveyed, though Spies said that a survey might not be prudent at this point and that those surveyed might not have all the information that those at June’s public forum received. Spies also said that he is strongly in favor of the PK-5 campus idea, though some on the board later said they are undecided at this point. Board President Randall Morgan said he is dismayed that some in the community might feel that this is a “done deal,” which, he insisted, is not the case.

Much of the lengthy conversation on this topic centered around the need to hear the public and the parents before making a decision with the board pondering how to get all the relevant data and information out into the public domain. However, as Trustee Debbie Nance pointed out, for many this is an issue of the heart and not about facts and figures. Roddy and Nance were among several trustees who said that they had heard from parents concerned with the future plans for the elementary schools and that the issue is a serious one.

“This is huge,” said Roddy.

Since Trustee Jim Atchison was absent from the meeting the board decided to take no action on this night with a few trustees stating that they were still undecided on which way they would vote. The board is expected to vote on this issue at a called meeting Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. in the VAISD administration building board room. The public is welcome.

One item concerning the new elementary school did get approved, however, and that dealt with the location of the land on which to build the new campus. The district currently owns land southwest of Van Alstyne Middle School and needs to purchase more to build the new elementary school. The district has been offered a 5-acre parcel — next to land currently owned — at an asking price of $10 and has the opportunity to purchase a double-lot adjacent to it for $15,000. This would, in total, give the district more than 12 acres on which to build. The land is located off of Highway 5 on the north side of Greywood and Blassingame.

The board voted 6-0 to authorize Spies to sign contracts for the acquisition. The contracts, per Spies, will state that the land must be used for a new school and if not used in a “reasonable” amount of time it can be bought back. The planned opening for the school is fall of 2018.

For more information on the public forum meeting held on June 20 click here.