Courtesy Houston Chronicle
Parents and other community members gathered into small groups Thursday night to brainstorm what they might like to see included in the next bond referendum for the Tomball Independent School District, which could come as early as November as the district moves to glean community input.
The meeting, hosted at the district Staff Development and Technology Center, provided the opportunity to discuss their top concerns with the district as well as asking district officials any questions that might help best determine what projects constitute the next bond package.
In the crowd were members of the district's steering committee. New superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora, also addressed the crowd, speaking to the importance of community input in such an undertaking.
Chief Administrative Officer, Chris Trotter, spoke about growth in Tomball, discussing the developments and suitors exploring the area. He said most of the district's undeveloped land is out west.
Chief Financial Officer, Jim Ross, followed Trotter to discuss district needs resulting from said growth.
Ross said the dsitrict's growth has primarily been in the southern portion of the district.
He reiterated the need for a school to relieve overcrowding at Willow Wood Junior High which is close to capacity and will exceed that capacity in 2018-2019. Wildwood will exceed capacity that same year, he said.
"This our newest elementary school and it's already virtually filled," Ross said, citing the Hayden Lakes development as a partial reason. He said there may be a need for an elementary on the district's north side in five years. Ross said the highest percentage of district growth is in the Kindergarten through fifth grade population.
"I'm positive we need to expand Tomball Memorial," he added.
After administrators spoke, parents and community members broke off into discussion groups and drafted their top respective concerns into a list to present to the other groups.
The issue repeated most often was the need for new schools.
Several groups said football stadium capacity was an issue, arguing that they'd like to see enough space for community members and junior high school students looking to attend the Tomball Memorial-Tomball High rivalry game. One group suggested giving a local business recognition in return for sponsorship to fund stadium improvements.
Another frequent concern was safety and security, namely as it relates to after-school pick-up and making adjustments to ease pick-up traffic and make it safer for students walking along the street during that time.
"The driveways for pick up can be dangerous," especially at Decker Prairie, said parent Stephanie Lue. "It's an accident waiting to happen."
Similarly, transportation was another top concern as parents expressed uneasiness with fifth grade students sitting next to students several grades higher on buses that they describe as cramped and aged. In light of area-wide bus driver shortages, parents ceded the difficulty in meeting the demand for more buses but hoped a solution might be reached.
Some groups also expressed infrastructure concerns they'd like to see from the city, to make their children's commutes safer, unrelated to Tomball ISD.
Others hoped to see an expanded agricultural barn facility for the FFA programs and upgraded fields for baseball and softball. Some individuals floated the idea of a natatorium to meet future south side growth.
The meeting was the first of three. The latter two meetings will be held on April 20 and April 27, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Staff Development and Technology Center.
"Tomball ISD is seeking input from parents and community members regarding possible facility expansion to accommodate new student enrollment district wide," the district website reads. "Your assistance is encouraged and appreciated as the district prepares for future growth."