CISD fights for more land for schools in NW Master Plan

EL PASO, Texas - At first, they thought it was a joke.

Canutillo school district officials tell ABC-7 they were shocked to learn just how little land has been set aside in the Northwest Master Plan for new schools.

The area is off Transmountain Road near Interstate 10. The Northwest Master Plan, overseen by the Public Service Board and planned by the City, set aside 15 acres for future schools in the area. But those 15 acres are nowhere near CISD's request for 120 acres in the Northwest Master Plan.

"Fifteen acres is not enough," said Annette Brigham, an associate superintendent for CISD. "Fifteen acres, we could possibly with strategic design, put in an elementary school ... One! With the projected growth we have coming in, four to five to 10 years out, you're going to need multiple schools."

Brigham said the district is already at more than 6,000 students and by 2020 could grow to 9,000 students. Canutillo High School is currently at more than 1,600 students, 92-percent of capacity.

"We need probably up to another, after the 15 acres, probably another 70 acres," she said. "Seventy to 80 we're gonna need."

How much land do you need in order to build a school? Canutillo High School sits on 48 acres and CISD officials say they need plots of land that size in order to build a new high school and possibly a middle and elementary school. But city planners say to build modern schools, they don't need this much land.

"If you look at modern school planning standards, U.S. green building council is a good example, they've got elementary at 5 (acres), middle schools at 10 and high schools 15," City Development Director Matt McElroy said. "And it's a wise use of tax dollars because we've also planned some parks in there."

McElroy said schools like Canutillo High, built in 2006, don't get built anymore.

"Frankly, the best practices don't build schools like Walmarts anymore," McElroy said. "We're just really at the point where we need to look for some opportunities to be able to share some city uses with school uses with better land use principles as well."

Brigham said something needs to be worked out.

"Now that we're at the table we're going to have to give them direct information," she said. "No, this is what we need, this is the acreage that we need. Yes, we're going to look at what their master plan looks like and we might have to alter what the schools will look like, but we know what's coming at us, they don't."

While city planners estimate five acres for an elementary school site, Canutillo ISD officials estimate at least 25 acres for an elementary school. Both sides call the discussions cordial at this point, with the hope a compromise can be reached.

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