By Jelani Gibson

For the Prosper Press

The Prosper Independent School District school board approved new attendance zones Feb. 17 meant to relieve student overcapacity in the elementary and middle schools.

Growth has been a focus of the district for the past year in the wake of an estimated $1.3 billion bond - 95 percent of which is slated to address district growth, according to the official bond website.

The new attendance zones will rely on Johnson Elementary and Rushing Middle School, which are being built and are slated to open in August.

“In order to coordinate with middle school course selection, we need to deal with it a little bit sooner than we normally do,” said PISD superintendent Drew Watkins during the board meeting.

Johnson Elementary is named after U.S. Air Force veteran and retired congressman Sam Johnson, and Rushing Middle School is named after retired PISD superintendent William Rushing.

Reynolds Middle School “will be relieved by Rushing Middle School, which will be our newest middle school,” said Prosper ISD Associate Superintendent Holly Ferguson in an interview after the board meeting.

Cockrell and Boyer Elementary schools will be relieved by Johnson Elementary, which will service Mustang Lakes residents, Ferguson said.

“Currently, those students that live in Mustang Lakes are going to Cockrell, so now they’ll basically have their own school in their subdivision,” she said.

The new zones are necessary to sustain growth within the district, Ferguson said.

“We’re out of space in Cockrell, so we’ve got to hit a release valve and that’s where that release happens … at Mustang Lakes,” Ferguson said.

“Boyer, we’re also getting growth. There won’t be as many students that come out of there. One of the things that we did to kind of help with the ease of the movement is that the principal from Boyer Elementary is going to be the principal at Johnson Elementary, so then it’s a known person. When we look at staffing and transfer of teachers, there will be about a third of the teachers who are coming from either Cockrell or Boyer so that kids have familiar faces.”

During the meeting, the 2019 Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) was also discussed, which details academic test performance. The district met and exceeded multiple testing benchmarks.

Board president Jim Bridges asked Ferguson what the district could improve on.

“What do you take out of it, what do you distill out of it?” Bridges asked of the report to Ferguson.

“We’ve been working very diligently on the whole SAT and ACT. That’s something I want to see a huge jump in, and I want to see more National Merit Finalists in this district because we have the kids who can do it, but we’re not turning out the numbers that we can,” Ferguson replied.

Testing represents a small portion of what students need from school districts, Prosper ISD Superintendent Dr. Drew Watkins said during the meeting.

The focus is more on freeing up teachers’ time so they can use it to invest in students, Watkins said.

“We are working hard to hire the very best people who want to do that,” he said. “Our charge is not to allow them to be consumed by the machine to where they can’t do that.”