Population shift could be contributing to declining enrollment at EPISD and YISD

EL PASO, Texas - The population shift to the outskirts of El Paso may be contributing to the enrollment declines at two local school districts, while creating an enrollment boom at another district.

The Ysleta Independent School District and El Paso Independent School District have undergone enrollment declines, while Socorro ISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas.

Ysleta has lost between 200 and 300 students every year for the last ten years, according to Interim Superintendent Anna Perez.

Socorro has gained anywhere between 1,500 and 500 students per year, said Pat O'Neil, SISD's Assistant Superintendent.

Last year, Socorro welcomed 500 new students and their population has been increasing since the mid 1990s.

The shift is mostly due to location. Ysleta is landlocked in the center of the city while Socorro ISD is situated far east, the area experiencing unprecedented growth.

Socorro voters in 2011 approved a $297 million bond to build three new elementary schools, a middle school and to complete two new high schools all in far East El Paso.

"It impacts your elementary schools. So when they're building these new  homes, most the time, you're going to see families with younger children moving in," said O'Neil of the growth.

While Socorro is surrounded with new and starter homes and new schools in the outskirts of the City, El Paso ISD is evaluating what to do with two elementary schools in the core of the City with drastically declining enrollment.

Zavala and Schuster elementary may be on the chopping block in the next couple years because of low enrollment.

For years, activists and urban planners have warned that rapid growth in the City's outskirts, or sprawl, will leave behind infrastructure that once cost millions to build.

Ysleta campuses are operating with fewer students and the district's open enrollment policy, which allows students from other districts to easily enroll at YISD, is not making up for the decline.  "We have exceptional teachers and administrators and exceptional programs so we think that we will continue to be the jewel of El Paso county," said Perez when asked if future growth projection numbers were troublesome for YISD.

According to the County, more than 50,000 new homes are expected to be built within the next 20 years in the area east of Loop 375.

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