Space is tight these days in Northwest ISD’s Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club.
The campus hosted an event in August to get students and community excited for the start of the new school year. In the past, everyone could fit on one side of the school’s football field.
“We can barely fit everybody on both sides,” Principal Kara Lea said.
More people are living in Northwest ISD, which covers 234 square miles in far north Fort Worth and 13 other cities and communities, including in Denton and Wise counties. And more are coming. To deal with that growth, the district proposed a nearly $2 billion bond to build eight new schools to fit an expected influx of 8,400 students.
Voters will consider the bond in the May 6 election. Early voting starts April 24 and ends May 2.
Three propositions form the bond:
- Prop A is more than $1.6 billion and calls for new schools, improvements to existing campuses and buildings, improved safety and security and better technology infrastructure.
- Prop B is $301.5 million and calls for the construction of stadiums at three high schools plus renovations to existing athletic facilities.
- Prop C is $21.7 million and calls for new devices for teachers and students.
The 2023 package is the eighth for Northwest ISD since 2001 — only one has failed. Voters shot down a four-part nearly $1 billion bond proposal in 2017. The most recent bond was in 2021; voters approved more than $745.7 million in upgrades.
The district’s growth has been explosive. In 2003, 6,177 students attended Northwest ISD. Two decades later, 29,150 are enrolled. That is a 372% jump.
By 2033, enrollment is projected to boom to 48,026 students, according to demographers Zonda Education. If that happens, Northwest ISD’s enrollment would boom 677% from 2003 to 2033.
Anthony Tosie, Northwest ISD’s communications director, has seen how the area has changed since moving here in 1996. He watched the district shift from one high school to now on the cusp of its fourth.
Neighboring Keller ISD saw a similar shift because of its growth. Keller ISD started with one high school in the city of Keller, and eventually added three high schools in Fort Worth, along with dozens of other schools. Keller ISD grew from 20,109 students in 2002 to more than 35,000 today.
While growth has slowed in Keller ISD, Northwest ISD hasn’t reached its peak. The district has large swaths of land prime for development — an advantage few of Fort Worth’s 12 school districts have.
“We’re going to be growing for a long time. Probably 30 to 40 years,” Tosie said.
Northwest ISD is feeling its growing pains.
Proposition A is the largest piece of Northwest ISD’s bond proposal. The $1.6 billion calls for new schools, extracurricular buildings and more. Here’s a look at the projects Prop A would fund, if approved:
- Comprehensive high school No. 4
- Middle school No. 8
- Elementary school No. 23 (Perrin Elementary)
- Elementary school No. 24
- Elementary school No. 25
- Elementary school No. 26
- Justin Elementary replacement school
- Prairie View Elementary replacement school
- Four early childhood centers
- Agriculture center No. 2
- Land acquisitions for new schools
- New buses
- Improvements and renovations to existing campuses and other district buildings
- Safety and security upgrades
- Updating technology infrastructure
Four elementary schools will either be nearing or over capacity in the 2023-24 school year. By 2033, 14 elementary schools will be over or nearing capacity. The district has 22 elementary schools.
“Middle school is probably a bigger pain point for us,” Tosie said.
The district has six middle schools — three are over capacity and one is nearing its limit. A new middle school is expected to open in August. The relief will be temporary.
At the high school level, Eaton High School will be nearing capacity for the 2023-24 school year. By the 2028-29 academic year, all three high schools are expected to be over capacity.
The proposed new schools would alleviate that pressure, Tosie said.
The proposed campuses include:
- A comprehensive high school in Fort Worth near Interstate 35W and State Highway 170.
- A middle school in Northlake near I-35.
- Perrin Elementary in Fort Worth on Texas 114, west of Justin.
- Two elementary schools along U.S. 287 in the Fort Worth-Haslet area.
- A fourth elementary school with a location that will be determined on upcoming growth.
- Replacement campuses for Justin Elementary and Prairie View Elementary.
If approved, the new schools would open between 2024 and 2027.
No more Thursday night lights
Football season in Northwest ISD takes so much planning. All three high schools use the 9,000-seat Northwest ISD Stadium for home games.
The district uses between 15 to 20 buses to transport athletes, band students and cheerleaders. Timing is of the essence, and one delay could set back the game, said Lea, one of the district’s high school principals.
A late game would not be a major issue if it happens on Friday. However, some home games are played on Thursday.
“It is hard when our community wants to bring out their elementary kids on a Thursday night and they stay until 1 a.m.,” Lea said.
Those hurdles could be gone if Prop B passes.
Byron Nelson High School, Eaton High School and the planned fourth high school would each see the construction of a 7,000-seat home stadium. The new stadiums would open in fall 2026, according to the district.
Slight bump to tax rate
Northwest ISD resident Gregory Phillips jotted down notes as Tosie presented the bond proposal inside Medlin Middle School’s library.
Phillips was concerned about how the bond would affect property taxes if voters OK it.
District officials expect the property tax rate to increase one-tenth of a cent.
Northwest ISD’s tax rate comprises two smaller rates: the maintenance-and-operations rate and the debt service rate.
The current maintenance-and-operations rate is 85.46 cents; it funds daily operations. The debt service rate is 42 cents. The overall tax rate is $1.2746, the lowest rate the district has levied since 1993.
Northwest ISD taxpayers are still paying more because of growing property appraisals. The district’s taxable value increased 20% between 2021 and 2022, according to the Texas Comptroller’s office. Northwest ISD had a taxable value of almost $31 billion in 2022; in 2021, it was nearly $26 billion.
If the bond is approved, officials plan to increase the debt service to 42.1 cents. The slight increase would mean the owner of a $450,000 home, the average property value in the district, would pay an additional $4.10 annually, according to Northwest ISD.
‘Tons more students’
Northwest ISD’s growth isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Across the district, construction crews are working on 63 subdivisions. Another 36 neighborhoods are in various planning stages. And groundwork on around 4,350 homes is underway.
Some are in Fort Worth and Haslet. Others are near Justin and many are in Denton and Wise counties.
All this adds up to a future additional 38,680 homes, according to Zonda Education.
District officials emphasized their enrollment and housing projections are conservative. Tosie, the district spokesman, explained it is possible Northwest ISD could outpace some of those numbers.
“You’ve seen the numbers in 10 years. We’re going to have tons more students and probably get close to doubling our district in 15 years,” he said.
Doubling enrollment would mean 58,300 students attending Northwest ISD. If that happens, Northwest ISD would be the second largest school district in Fort Worth — only rivaling Fort Worth ISD.
What will my ballot say?
Here is the ballot language for each proposition:
Prop A: The issuance of $1,672,193,000 of bonds by the Northwest Independent School District for school facilities and the purchase of land, buses and vehicles and levying the tax in payment thereof. This is a property tax increase.
Prop B: The issuance of $301,555,000 of bonds by the Northwest Independent School District for a new stadium at Byron Nelson High School; a new stadium at Eaton High School; a new stadium for a future new high school; additions and renovations to Texan Field (NISD Track and Field Complex); and renovations to Northwest ISD Stadium, and levying the tax in payment thereof. This is a property tax increase.
Prop C: The issuance of $21,752,000 of bonds (with a maximum maturity of three years) by the Northwest Independent School District for instructional technology and levying the tax in payment thereof. This is a property tax increase.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.