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Plano ISD board votes to close four schools, citing budget concerns

Teacher Katie Strong and Theo Strong, 5, talk with India smith, 11, during the Plano ISD special meeting to determine closing four schools on Monday, June 10, 2024, in Plano.
Yfat Yossifor
Teacher Katie Strong and Theo Strong, 5, talk with India smith, 11, Monday during the Plano ISD special meeting to determine closing four schools in Plano.

This school year will be the last for some schools in Plano.

The Plano ISD school board trustees voted unanimously to close two elementary schools, Davis and Forman, and two middle schools, Armstrong and Carpenter, for the 2025-2026 school year. The board also approved a resolution amending the district’s transfer policy to allow students at the campuses slated to close to transfer for the 2024-2025 school year. Employees at the four campuses will also have the option to transfer to another school.

Plano ISD Superintendent Dr. Theresa Williams said the decision to close schools was a tough but necessary financial decision. “This is the hardest work that I’ve been asked to do,” Williams said.

Many in the audience walked out crying after the vote.

The school board appointed a committee last year of more than 70 parents, staff, city employees and other community members to evaluate campuses for potential closure based on quality of facilities, building capacity and the district’s declining enrollment. The Long Range Facility Committee recommended closing the four campuses in May.

Projected annual savings is about $5.2 million.

The committee also recommended further study of the district’s western cluster for potential adjustments by December 2024.

Deaf Education Program

Davis Elementary hosts the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for 14 school districts, including Plano ISD. If Davis closes, 75% of the students would move to nearby Harrington Elementary, including all of the day students.

Shawnda Krajca’s daughter is a deaf student at Davis Elementary who relies on American Sign Language to communicate. Krajca said she’s concerned about her daughter being isolated at the new school. She said Davis Elementary has an inclusive culture where their classmates see them as peers.

“Now, they’re going to be known as the deaf kids,” Krajca said.

Some of the hearing students from Davis Elementary would be rezoned to Harrington Elementary. But others would be sent to Saigling Elementary.

Sarah Wainscott is an associate professor at Texas Women’s University and teaches deaf education. Wainscott said it will be an adjustment for teachers at Harrington who haven’t worked with deaf and hard of hearing children. She said deaf and hard of hearing students each have different needs and ways of communicating – some use a hearing aid, some have cochlear implants and others have an ASL interpreter.

Having a teacher that knows those things intuitively based on experience is a game changer,” Wainscott said.

Dylan M. Rafaty is the president and CEO of the North Texas Disability Chamber. He’s also a graduate of Plano West Senior High School. Rafaty, who uses a hearing aid and is deaf in his right ear and partially deaf in his left ear, said Davis has a supportive environment for its deaf and hard of hearing students. But he said he’s confident the district will do its best to ensure the program’s transition goes well for the students and families.

Rafaty said he encourages students who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families to continue advocating for themselves in the new environment.

“Change is part of growth, and I've learned that at a young age, and I was able to persevere,” he said.

A Ripple Effect

Unlike Davis Elementary, Forman Elementary students will be split between five schools: Dooley Elementary, Schell Elementary, Stinson Elementary, Memorial Elementary and Meadows Elementary.

Closing Forman will also result in students at other schools being rezoned. John Tedford, who’s on the Long Range Facility Planning Committee, said at the May 21 Plano ISD school board meeting that’s because of where Forman is located.

“Forman is somewhere somewhat in the middle of the cluster,” Tedford said. “This results in several necessary adjustments to boundaries, what we call the ripple effects.”

Harper Weaver, a data engineer and parent of a Forman Elementary student, analyzed the district’s data and shared his findings with KERA. He said the ripple effect Tedford referred to will impact or would have impacted about 20% of the students in the district’s eastern cluster. The new boundaries will lead or would have increased to increased travel times to school and require more bus routes according to Weaver’s report.

Tisha Amos, the president of Forman Elementary’s parent teacher association, said she’ll have to drive her kids to their new school. Before, they could walk.

Amos said parents in her community felt blindsided when the district announced it might close Forman and Armstrong Middle School.

“We’re all just shocked, heartbroken, still in disbelief that two of our big schools in the heart of our community, are being closed,” she said.

But Amos said she didn’t expect Forman to be selected closed because of it has more than 500 students.

Weaver said in his report that unlike the other three campuses, closing Forman goes against the committee's guiding principles that board set. He cites schools further east than Forman that have lower enrollment than Forman Elementary that the district could close that would have less of an impact on zoning.

The majority of Forman Elementary’s student population — about 61% — is Hispanic according to the school’s 2022 Texas Education Agency Report Card. A large percentage of the student body are bilingual — about 56.7% according to TEA data. And 71.7% are economically disadvantaged.

“Some of these students will be removed from places where they have a community to places where a community just doesn't exist, or at least or is included in the same way,” he said.

Weaver also shared a copy of his report with KERA in Spanish.

Financial Strains

Plano joins several other North Texas school districts, including Irving and Richardson ISD, that also closed campuses because of budget constraints.

"We understand that schools are more than just buildings," said Williams, the school superintendent. "They are communities."

But Plano ISD has had a budget deficit for years. The deficit for the district’s proposed budget for the 2024-2025 school year is $37 million — up from $24 million the previous year.

Property values in Plano have gone up, which increased the district’s taxable revenue – but that doesn’t increase the district’s budget. Wealthy school districts like Plano ISD don’t get to keep all of their property tax revenue. Districts that collect more than that in property tax revenue than the state says they’re entitled to send the extra money to the state. The Texas Education Agency redistributes that extra money to poorer school districts. That system is known as recapture.

The state sets a basic amount of funding school districts get per student — it comes out to no more than $6,160. The basic allotment hasn’t been changed since 2019. A bill that would’ve increased the basic allotment and teacher salaries died after Texas House members passed an amendment removing a school voucher program from the bill. Gov. Greg Abbott said he would veto any legislation that doesn’t include what he refers to as school choice.

"The cost of doing business today can't be done with 2019 dollars," Williams said.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at

Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.