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Question of the Week:
Does it cost more to maintain smaller high schools?
 

A lot is said about comparing our smaller school philosophy to the “mega” school philosophy and comparing FISD to Plano. In the early 90s when our community studied this issue and determined we were going to develop with this small schools philosophy, it was based on research at the time and instinct regarding what the community felt was best for our young people. Research actually shows that schools from about 500-900 students are the ideal, but that would be impossible to maintain in this environment. Based on what we continue to hear from parents moving here and living here is that this is a big part of what they like about FISD and they feel it is best for students. Having 9-12 grade high schools with 1,500 to 1,800 students allows staff and students to develop relationships with each other and for students to have opportunities to find their niche and engage in the high school environment. We believe that our students receive 5A school opportunities in a 4A sized environment. The courses and extracurricular offerings are comparable. At build out, we believe we will have 8-9 high schools. If you look at Plano ISD’s high school plan of 9-10 grade high schools and 11-12 grade senior highs, they have 8 campuses and will probably have a 9th – the same number of facilities - which translates into the same basic construction costs. If you look at the enrollment averages at their schools they are 1,600 at the 9-10 grade high school campuses and 2,220 at the senior highs (grades 11-12). Again, relatively comparable to our school sizes. The difference is the configuration and in the size of the high school grade levels. In FISD, an average grade level will be 400-500 students in the fully opened high schools, compared to a range from 625 to 1,300 students. So as students work for spots on the volleyball team or the band or the debate team or student council then a smaller percentage of students are going to be able to be a part of these programs. With the size of schools we are committed to, more students are able to be a part of programs that reflect their interest, their passion and that help make them successful, well rounded students. Studies also show that students who are involved in activities and learn to manage their time are more successful in college. We have grown faster than any other school district in the state and built more schools (many of them secondary schools) in a shorter amount of time, while still maintaining the lowest tax rate in Collin County and the surrounding area. Our healthy tax base growth and the diversity of our tax base has been tremendous. So bottom line, if you look at number of buildings and construction costs and the number of staff members needed to serve the students, it is going to be about the same. The difference is in the grade configurations and the grade level sizes, particularly at the senior highs. Configuration and school size are community choices and each picks what works best for them. Our neighbors to the south have been very successful with their model and our students are doing very well within the model our community chose. With four high schools out of eight or nine complete, we are well on the way to completing the plan set out in the early 90s.