Rising juniors, community speak against new zoning

Prosper residents ask the school board for more options

As+the+only+student+speaker%2C+sophomore+Julia+Fahrenthold+presents+her+reasons+for+why+rising+juniors+should+be+given+the+choice.+In+addition+to+Fahrenthold%2C+four+other+speakers+presented+to+the+school+board+during+the+meeting.+Each+speaker+was+limited+to+three+minutes.+

Kaya Miller

As the only student speaker, sophomore Julia Fahrenthold presents her reasons for why rising juniors should be given the choice. In addition to Fahrenthold, four other speakers presented to the school board during the meeting. Each speaker was limited to three minutes.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The announcement of the early construction of Walnut Grove drew polarized reactions, with students upset to leave their friends, to leave their foundation and progress in sports, and parents left to worry about new traffic patterns. PISD administration released zoning based on population distribution, and community members expressed concerns.

Community members took the opportunity to speak out against the zoning at the school board meeting held on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. A week prior, on Oct. 10, Prosper ISD presented to parents of students enrolled in the district at Prosper High School on the topic of the Walnut Grove High School early construction and proposed zoning. The new zoning leaves students of Rock Hill and Prosper High to transfer to Walnut Grove High School for the new school year. A similar event occurred with the opening of Rock Hill in 2020, but rising juniors and seniors were given the choice of school despite zoning.

Faced towards the school board, community member Sandra Sandusky presents her speech. Sandusky followed her husband Jeremy Sandusky. Sandusky focused on the right of the PISD taxpayers to have a voice in the Walnut Grove zoning. (Kaya Miller)

“I am here on the behalf of the rising junior class,” sophomore Julia Fahrenthold said. “I would just like to let my voice be heard here because I’m zoned for Walnut Grove. I feel that if I go to Walnut Grove, I’m losing more opportunities that I could pertain with myself throughout the last two years of my high school career.”

Fahrenthold spoke along with the four other PISD community members on the issue of Walnut Grove zoning.

“I’m currently on the snare line and I’ve worked very hard to get there,” Fahertold said. “Countless hours of hard work and dedication have gone into the band program that is already established at Prosper High School. Starting over at a new school would be very challenging and it makes me feel as though everything I’ve worked for will be thrown away.”

The band practices every day after school except for Wednesdays during the football season, allowing people to form close friendships with other band members.

“At Prosper High School, I’m able to have more scholarship opportunities for music, because of the reputation Prosper High school has,” Fahertold said. “Not only does staying at PHS benefit my musical aspects in the future, but I’m also spending my sister’s last year of high school with her. We are very close in age and also personally close.”

Fahertold’s sister, Erica Fahertold, is also a member of the band.

Sitting by other Prosper parents, rising junior mother Kelly Vincent listens to a speech presented by Sandra Sandusky. “I think the school of choice is really big for rising juniors,” Vincent said. “Because of the investment that they’ve made into their high school career, it’s not just a simple move. There’s a lot that goes with it – a lot of relationships, and really a big future.” (Kaya Miller)

“I have also built lifelong friendships in the band,” Fahertold said. “The band schedule is rough and finding time to spend with my friends outside of that is very demanding. I hope you can come to understand that going to a new school away from your friends and the life you’ve built at your old school is hard.”

Community member Chelsea Thomason spoke from the perspective of a parent. Her son participates in PHS varsity athletics as a sophomore. Her child will be zoned for Walnut Grove.

“It’s their junior year transcripts that go with their college admissions applications,” Thomason said. “The last two years, we’re talking about some of these students that are competing at a varsity level at a 6A district, and we don’t know what the UIL zoning is going to be like at Walnut Grove.”

When Rock Hill originally opened, the school competed in the 5A UIL category for the first two years. In the 2022-2023 school year, it moved up to compete in 6A.

“Number one, it wasn’t clear if the responses were from families that would be directly impacted by the new zoning, or if that was PISD-wide, ” Thomason said. “The second concern with the data is, it was presented in a way that seniors would choose the school that they were (assigned to). You can’t expect that 100% of seniors who are zoned are going to choose Walnut Grove.”

The results of the Google Form responses were outlined during the Oct. 11 Walnut Grove presentation. PISD members responded with their opinion on the zoning plans.

Now I understand that the new school will have those opportunities in the future but during the transition period you will probably deprive a lot of good students and a lot good athletes of their future.”

— David Richard

“Athletics has been a strong part of my life and I know it is in the school system,” David Richard said. “Even at that junior high level, these kids are learning what the coach wants in high school. They are learning to be a part of a team that has been extremely successful.”

The Lady Eagles soccer team, for example, ranked second in the nation last year.

“As I’m looking at the number of students involved athletically speaking, I’m sure it’s a few hundred and probably not enough to change the whole demographics of either school system,” Richard said. “But I also understand that young ladies like Julia who very well represented themselves also have a nickel in the game. So from that standpoint, please consider the kids who have worked so hard to get to this level, and it is a very high level.”

In addition to extracurricular activity disadvantages, community members expressed safety concerns.

“I know the choice was given to Rock Hill so I feel there was some precedence given by the board,” Jeremy Sandusky said. “My main concern is that we have an infrastructure problem. We have First St. that is going to be paved with two lanes – there’s one way in and one way out. So giving the choice to the juniors will probably alleviate some of that traffic because that is going to be a major issue and I don’t think we’ve taken that into consideration.”

Currently, PHS has multiple ways for students and parents to enter the school, with one entrance off of Frontier Parkway, and multiple entrances off of Coleman St. Frontier Parkway is under construction to expand to four lanes.

With his notes on the podium, Jeremy Sandusky presents his reasons against the Walnut Grove zoning. Sandusky spoke on the traffic safety concern. He has children enrolled in the PISD district. (Kaya Miller)

“I know high school number four on the west side is supposed to open in a few years too,” Sandusky said. “That’ll dilute from Prosper High school as well. So we’re really diluting from a good school of its academic, athletic, and extracurricular activity.”

After Sandusky, his wife Sandra Sandusky spoke to the board.

“We have a son that is a current sophomore at PHS that has been potentially zoned to Walnut Grove next year,” Sandra Sandusky said. “Every single taxpayer that pays for PISD should have been made aware of this. We should have been aware that the school is opening early, and that we’ve set aside roughly 7 million dollars to do this with a contingency plan of 2.5 million dollars.”

The First St. Expansion project began on Oct. 24. A public information meeting on the expansion was held Thursday, Oct. 27.

“What I’ve heard is that (PHS) is too crowded and that it’s not safe for our students to be there,” Sandra Sandusky said. “But the fact of the matter is that it’s not really safe to put them at a high school that they can’t get there safely. As Jeremy mentioned, that is (many juniors’) first year of driving so they are going to be on the road with all of the buses and construction, the school that is already on First St., the daycare on Coit Rd., and Rogers Middle School.”

Although community members expressed negative feedback on the issue of school zoning, some look forward to new opportunities at the new high school.

“I’m sad about leaving my friends that I have made at PHS, but I realized the benefits of being at a new school – like having more opportunities,” sophomore Kylie Barnes said. “But, I do believe that juniors and seniors should have a choice of whether they stay or leave because both of the grade levels are having to make decisions for colleges.”

I’m excited about going to a new school where I will get to make lots of new traditions and get to experience some different things than Prosper. But at the same time, I’m sad because I will be leaving a lot of my friends behind, and the memories I’ve created at Prosper. ”

— Nicole Steel, sophomore

Unlike Rock Hill, district administration so far does not plan on allowing rising juniors the choice due to the continuous population growth. During the school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Greg Bradley outlined the reasons for the zoning and the reasoning for the sped-up construction of Walnut Grove. Bradley presented several models of school populations, with regard to rising seniors having the choice versus rising juniors.

“I personally believe that rising seniors should get a choice of where they go to school next year, since it’s their last year of high school, and especially since seniors got the choice when Rock Hill opened too,” sophomore Nicole Steel said. “I, however, don’t think rising juniors should get the choice. I may be biased since I will be a junior next year, but we will still have two years left in high school which is a lot of time to make new memories at Walnut Grove. And, I also think that having to choose where to go would be a really hard decision to make, and it’s one I would rather not have to do, but I might be in the minority of juniors who think that.”

The school board and administration are still left to make their final decision with regard to problem-solving for the best of the student population – in terms of safety and opportunity, but also by pleasing the current community of pre-existing high schools.