Planning committee helps district prepare for tens of thousands of students
Planning committee helps district prepare for tens of thousands of students
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Bob Templeton discusses Northwest ISD growth with long-range planning committee members

When Northwest ISD reaches build-out – the point in which all residential land is developed and occupied – demographers expect it will have about 95,000 students. To prepare for that inevitability, a community-led long-range planning committee is shaping the district’s vision of its future.

At 234 square miles, Northwest ISD has some of the largest boundaries of any school district in the region. For comparison, Northwest ISD’s closest large neighbors, Fort Worth ISD, Denton ISD, Lewisville ISD and Keller ISD, occupy about 210, 180, 127 and 51 square miles, respectively. Northwest ISD is currently only about 23 percent built out, however – meaning significantly less of its land is developed than those school districts.

These facts are among the many issues the long-range planning committee is currently grappling with. One of its most pressing tasks is analyzing data to help determine what schools and facilities are needed for the influx of new students through the next 5 to 10 years and balancing that against what the next growth spurt will look like.

Tim McClure, district architect and planner, told committee members at a recent meeting that their help will be vital in determining what Northwest ISD looks like for decades to come.

“We’re prioritizing and looking to you for a vision that is truly a long-range plan, not just what we need immediately,” he explained. “As we move through the years, we’ll obviously look and see if we need to refocus on the goals from this group based on changes that may happen in our communities.”

Templeton Demographics, a demographer contracted by Northwest ISD and several other large school districts, anticipates the district will see long-term sustained growth that rivals or outpaces any North Texas peer. Because of its large geographic area and the fact that the district is far from build-out, growth in Northwest ISD is expected to last decades.

That assessment comes on the heels of Dallas-Fort Worth’s economic growth through new jobs, which results in land and housing developers building more residential communities. Across the region, about 30,000 new homes are built annually, with about 1,300 of those built within Northwest ISD boundaries. That amount places Northwest ISD fifth in the region in new home construction.


 
“Even if [developers are] building 1,300 new homes a year in Northwest ISD, you're going to see sustained growth for a long, long time.”
 
BOB TEMPLETON, PRESIDENT OF TEMPLETON DEMOGRAPHICS
 

“Northwest ISD has 25,375 future lots – additional phases of developments that are already on the ground and concept phases of new developments,” said Bob Templeton, president of Templeton Demographics, at the committee’s Oct. 25 meeting. “Even if they’re building 1,300 new homes a year in Northwest ISD, you’re going to see sustained growth for a long, long time.”

Enrollment growth is expected across every geographic area in Northwest ISD’s boundaries, meaning more schools will come to almost every area within a few years. In 10 years, in fact, the district is expected to add more than 12,000 students – or more than half of its current 22,000-plus enrolled population.

“With a growth rate at the elementary level of about 500 to 600 students a year, that’s the equivalent of about a new elementary school a year,” Mr. Templeton said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean a new elementary school will be needed every year since that growth is spread out, but it’s certainly going to be an area of need going forward.”

To help determine how to best meet the needs of a growing population, committee members won’t just look at the facility requirements, but also the curriculum needs. As such, they’ll soon hear from extracurricular leaders – including athletics, career and technical education, and fine arts department heads – about what programs will see rapid expansion with the growing student population.

Schools and equipment aren’t necessarily the biggest need, however. Perhaps the largest need is having qualified professionals to educate incoming students – meaning more teachers will need to be hired to staff new schools. As with most businesses and organizations, staffing costs make up the vast majority of Northwest ISD’s operations budget.

Dr. Ryder Warren, superintendent of schools, said hiring the best teachers possible will be the biggest challenge going forward.

“We can’t just stop hiring people to support our kids,” he told the committee. “We grow at about 1,000 new students a year, and that isn’t stopping anytime soon. Kids are coming and we know that, so we need to be prepared for it to ensure the educational excellence this district is known for continues.”

FOLLOW PLANNING PROGRESS
To learn more about the long-range planning committee and get information about its meeting progress, visit its website at www.nisdtxlrpc.org.