Allen may look like a sleepy country town, but don't let the tumbleweeds fool you. This rural community is ripe with controversy, and it all started with a bond election.
You know the one: it brought in the $60 million football stadium known the world over. It also created a roughly $40 million bus barn and a $700,000 budget for public art. The latter two line items have been received with more jeers than cheers.
Now, the loudest opponents of the bus barn, including those in nearby Quail Run, have been cut out of the attendance zone for Cheatham Elementary School. Cheatham is the closest AISD facility to the proposed transportation service center.
The addition of Lindsey Elementary School in northwest Allen caused a district-wide shake-up.
Of course, plenty of neighborhoods besides Quail Run are affected by the proposed fall 2013 redistricting plan. The addition of Lindsey Elementary School in northwest Allen caused a district-wide shake-up.
But that's not stopping the conspiracy theories from flowing in Allen.
Some residents feel they have been carved out among surrounding neighborhoods and sent to new schools as punishment for opposing the bus maintenance facility.
Stacey Schultz lives in Quail Run, which is located near the site of the proposed bus barn. If the redistricting plan passes as-is, Quail Run residents will have to go against traffic from the facility to bring their children to Boone Elementary. Schultz says many of her neighbors believe they have been unfairly targeted for redistricting due to their vocal resistance to the bus barn.
"I would hope that that’s not the case, because that would probably be illegal, but a lot of our neighborhood feels that way," Schultz says. "Quail Run is definitely getting the worst end of the entire deal."
Allen ISD spokesman Tim Carroll puts no stock in that theory.
"That was absolutely not a consideration," Carroll says. "All of the things we are doing are based on the numbers and demographics. There's no emotional context to this."
"All of the things we are doing are based on the numbers and demographics," district spokesman Tim Carroll says. "There's no emotional context to this."
While the district's approach may be void of emotion, the community's response has been far from stoic.
A raucous crowd filled the cafeteria at Curtis Middle School on the evening of November 6 for a town hall-style meeting to discuss redistricting. Several neighborhoods came out in force with signs and, in the case of Star Creek Community, coordinated attire.
Chris Sarpy, a Saddleridge Estates resident, was one of about 30 public speakers.
"I believe you all have the best of intentions. But we spent $60 million on a stadium, and now we are looking to spend $30 million on a bus barn that really no one wants," Sarpy said to a burst of applause. "We could take that money and develop a long-term solution to our growth. Instead, we're robbing Peter to pay Paul."
No shortage of opinions
The crowd had a variety of suggestions for Allen ISD representatives Mark Tarpley and Beth Nicholas, who led the meeting. Star Creek residents presented five alternative options to redistricting, while others chimed in with proposals for a lottery system and managed enrollment, which allows parents to wait in line for a spot at a particular school. One speaker simply recommended better address verification.
"Why doesn't Allen ISD verify addresses each year?" the woman posited. "That's something you should probably look into."
Allen has been growing steadily since the 1990s and attendance changes, however unpopular, are still necessary.
Two people spoke in favor of the current redistricting proposal. One woman compared the cycle of redistricting in Allen to being in the military.
"It's all about how you look at it," the upbeat woman said. "Kids who grow up with parents in the military move every couple of years, and they turn out fine."
Carroll says strong opinions and even some frustration is to be expected with a redistricting proposal. Allen has been growing steadily since the 1990s and attendance changes, however unpopular, are still necessary.
"As a parent, it's your job to be a little protective of your kids and your community," Carroll says. "Changes can still be made. Nothing has been decided yet."
Comments from public meetings in October and November will be presented to the board of trustees later this month. The board could make a final decision on redistricting in January.