Harlandale ISD to consolidate campuses following financial hardship, superintendent says

SAN ANTONIO – Harlandale Independent School District is planning to consolidate at least five elementary schools after years of financial hardship and declining student enrollment.

Superintendent of Schools Gerardo Soto sent a letter to parents stating that a final decision has not been made, but the Harlandale School Board will be voting on the consolidation proposal later this month.

The proposal suggests the consolidation and repurposing of the following schools:

  • Columbia Heights Elementary – Students will be transferred to Stonewall Flanders and Collier Elementary school, and the campus will be repurposed for special programs, including Special Ed, STEM/ GT, Bilingual and the SOSA center.
  • Jewel Wietzel Center – Students will be transitioned to their respective home high schools and HOPS students will be sent to Frank Tejeda Academy.
  • Morrill Elementary – Students will be transferred to Adams, Gilbert and Wright Elementary schools and the campus will be repurposed into a central office and professional development center.
  • Rayburn Elementary – Students will be transferred to Adams and Carroll Bell Elementary schools, and the campus will be repurposed for a police department and technology building.
  • Vestal Elementary – Students will be transferred to Gillette, Carroll Bell and Bellaire Elementary schools, and the campus will be repurposed into a Career and Technical Education Building and Harlandale Alternative Center. The back building will be repurposed into AVANCE Early Childhood center.

Two administrative buildings are also on the proposal for consolidation:

  • Central Office – This will be repurposed into an HISD Care Center, allowing for an expansion of services for social, emotional and mental well-being, according to the proposal.
  • SCHEH Building – The building will be repurposed into a multipurpose building with a wellness area and fine arts dressing rooms as well as a staging area. New construction is also planned for this building using money from the 2022 bond.

“We understand that this news may be difficult, especially for those whose children attend one of the affected schools. Please know that our top priority is the well-being and education of our students, and we are committed to supporting them during this time of uncertainty,” Soto said.

If the proposal is approved, district officials said they will help facilitate the transition of all affected staff and students to other schools within the district.

The district stated that there has been a 19% decrease in resident elementary students over the course of four years, from 2018-2021, and that a “significant loss” is expected through 2026.

Student enrollment graphic from Harlandale ISD school consolidation proposal. (Harlandale ISD)

Officials said there was a sharp decline in Pre-K and Kindergarten students in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was not a significant bounce back in 2021.

According to the district, “low birth rates, declining market share, and a lack of residential development” are also seen as reasons for the decreasing student population.

People who wish to provide comments on the proposal can do so at the following meetings:

  • School Board Meeting on Monday, March 20 ,which takes place at 6:15 p.m. at Collier Elementary, located at 834 W Southcross Boulevard.

A YouTube livestream will be provided on the Harlandale ISD Channel.

This is the second San Antonio area school district to discuss consolidation in recent weeks.

South San Antonio Independent School District is also facing major financial issues and discussing several options to potentially solve a multi-million dollar deficit.

Tom Cummins, executive director for the South San American Federation of Teachers, told KSAT the district is “opposed to closing schools. We are very much in favor of neighborhood schools because each school is an integral part of that community.”

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