Leander ISD weighs COVID-19 impacts on future development plans

Education

LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — School districts are trying to gauge if COVID-19 will have any long-term effects on their school development plans. And they’re basing some of those projections off of where the current housing market is at.

This comes as the Leander Independent School District prepares to break ground on a new elementary school, which has a build date of August 2021.

Leander ISD is known to be bursting at the seams.

That growth is reflected in the housing market. To put that into perspective, Leander ISD expects to grow by 1,300 students in the next year alone.

“One of the developers in the area has 175 lots under development right now,” said Jimmy Disler, Leander ISD’s Chief Facilities Officer.

Leander ISD’s chief facilities officer reached out to two major developers where new schools are projected to go. He wanted to gauge how COVID-19 would impact facility needs in the long-run.

“When you’re building a $30 million facility, we need to make sure we have a need for it,” said Disler.

Disler found that new homes sales have slowed, by nearly 50%, according to the two major developers he spoke to. The bright side of this is, however, these developers are still seeing sales continue.

“One of the positive things they said was that they’ve only seen two to three contracts canceled due to job losses,” said Disler. “They had expected sales to stop completely, but they haven’t flatlined.”

The National Association of Realtor reported this week that 75% of their clients have not reduced listing prices to attract buyers.

“Consumers are mostly abiding by stay-in-shelter directives, and it appears the current decline in buyer and seller activity is only temporary, with a majority ready to hit the market in a couple of months,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “The housing market faced an inventory shortage before the pandemic. Given that there are even fewer new listings during the pandemic, home sellers are taking a calm approach and appear unwilling to lower prices to attract buyers during the temporary disruptions to the economy.”

Prior to COVID-19, Leander ISD projected they’d add 13,000 students over the next decade. That’s why they planned to build seven elementary schools, a middle school by 2024 and a high school by 2025. Disler says it’s too soon to know how those plans will change.

For now, Leander’s 28th elementary school, Tarvin, is expected to break ground in a couple weeks.

“We need that building for August of 2021 to help with overcrowding,” said Disler.

Thursday district board members are set to vote on an $11,000 agenda item for Tarvin elementary’s construction startup tools. The school will be located near Palmera Ridge.

Disler says, elementary school number 29 could be on hold if home sales significantly decline. School number 29 is expected to be built by August 2022.

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