Tyler Independent School District will reshape its elementary school attendance zones for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The Tyler ISD Board of Trustees voted to approve new elementary school attendance zones during its regular Monday meeting.

The move marked the closing of a chapter in a process that began when the district successfully had its desegregation order lifted two years ago. Administrators have been working to restructure the district in a way that makes sense with its current population, which has been shifting west for the past few decades.

The board first took a look at proposed changes during the February trustees' meeting. Data specialist John Landes, who was responsible for creating the maps, said there have been some adjustments since February in order to find the best possible balance for the schools.

Jack and Dixie elementary schools are near their 800-student capacity, while Jones sits at just above 350 students, with about half of those students being transfers. Administrators have said that with population predicted to continue growing westward, it made sense to balance populations rather than ask taxpayers to fund new schools while others sit well below population. Owens Elementary was able to take a chunk of students outside of Toll 49 to help offset population at Jack, while also shifting north to Texas Highway 31 to alleviate Dixie.

In addition to helping overpopulated schools such as Dixie and Jack scale back to a more comfortable level, the district also is getting rid of what it calls desegregation bubbles. Since the early 1970s, these pockets of population saw children being bused from areas near Interstate 20 to Bell and Clarkston elementary schools in the southeast portion of the city.

Five elementary schools had attendance zones split into several areas, but the board's action on Monday night will see that number drop to zero.

Landes said that since the initial proposals, he was able to adjust the Andy Woods Elementary School zone to keep its secondary bubble. Landes said Woods also will pull in some students that were zoned to Rice Elementary, which was sandwiched between the two Woods zones.

Caldwell Elementary Arts Academy will no longer have an attendance zone, as it shifts to a K-8 arts magnet beginning with the addition of sixth grade for the 2018-19 school year.

The board approved the map as presented during the meeting, with one change -- moving the Bell zone one street north from Charnwood Street to Houston Street, west of Beckham Avenue.

Earlier this year the board voted to restructure its middle and high school attendance zones. Within a few weeks the district will have a tool on its website to allow parents to input their address to check what attendance zones their home is in.

In other business

The district made changes to its local policies reflective of the District of Innovation status it obtained in 2017. The status allows the district more control over local policy. Some policy item changes included teacher contract probationary periods, board member terms and election years, and processes to notify parents if class sizes exceed 24 students.

The full scope of policy changes can be found in the board agenda at TylerISD.org

Special Recognition

Elementary Student of the Month -- Joshua Cale Dyess, a fourth-grade student at Caldwell Elementary Arts Academy

Secondary Student of the Month -- Julissa Nunez, a 12th-grader at John Tyler High School

March Teacher of the Month -- Tamara Bowers, an eighth-grade math, algebra and geometry teacher at Moore MST Magnet School

The board also congratulated Moore MST Magnet School eighth-grader Benjamin Boynton and sixth-grader Isaac Billington for qualifying to advance to the state level competition for the Texas Science Fair. Both students qualified by placing in the top 10 in the Junior Biological category at the East Texas Regional Science Fair.

Jamon Washington, a senior at John Tyler High School, was recognized for advancing and placing fifth in the finals of the August Wilson National Monologue Competition.

Robert E. Lee High School senior Fritz Hager III was recognized for being named one of six finalists in the National Endowment for the Arts 2018 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, a national songwriting competition in which a $25,000 scholarship will be awarded to the winner.

The Robert E. Lee High School Theatre department placed first for its One-Act Play in bi-district competition. The team will now advance to the area meet under the direction of Amy Clemons.

Four Robert E. Lee High School students received state recognition for their artwork in the Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE):

Nohely Bustos, a senior – one piece of art

Caden Zips, a sophomore – one piece

Sadie Haverlock, a junior – two pieces of art

Aveanne Tugano, a senior – one piece

Several other students were congratulated for their artwork receiving state recognition at a ceremony hosted by the first lady of Texas and being on exhibit in the state Capitol:

Mirella Romo – first grade at Jack Elementary School

Lydia Schweizer – seventh grade at Hubbard Middle School

Brianna Metzner - 12th grade at Robert E. Lee High School

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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