Education legislation

About 5,700 new Belton ISD students are expected within a decade as regional growth fuels a Bell County housing boom.

The projected school district growth — part of a Central Texas boom that includes Temple and the well-traveled Interstate 35 corridor — will prompt the student population rise to more than 19,000 in 2031 from 13,300 now, a demographer told officials.

New housing underway or planned in West Temple and southern Belton is the reason for district growth. Lake Pointe and Lake Point Terrance subdivisions on Temple’s popular west side are currently expanding.

“The growth is already happening,” Superintendent Matt Smith said in a statement released by the district Tuesday evening. “We saw a 5.8 percent increase in students from fall 2020 to fall 2021. This equates to 733 additional students. We’re also seeing a strong retention rate, even while growing.”

A district committee is holding meetings to determine if a school bond is needed in 2022 or at a later date. Designs for a future elementary school are underway although the district currently has no way to pay for construction.

Michelle Box, a demographer with Zonda Education, the firm formerly known as Templeton Demographics, told the school board Monday that there are 46 actively building subdivisions with groundwork underway on about 1,975 lots.

“While it is more difficult to project what that long-term growth will look like, if it continues at a similar rate, Belton ISD could have more than 14,300 elementary students, 6,500 middle school students and 8,200 high school students by 2051,” the district said in a news release.

The district’s bond exploration committee is expected to present recommendations for a bond proposal that the school board will consider next year. The school board could then call for a bond election in May 2022 or later.

The Temple, Salado, Academy and Troy school districts are also seeing significant growth with numerous housing developments commencing.

Early voting is underway through Oct. 29 in the Temple ISD for a proposed $184.9 million bond. Residents will decide Nov. 2 on two propositions, the first of which calls for $178.3 million for the construction and renovation of school facilities and many other improvements. The second proposition calls for $6.6 million to improve Wildcat Stadium.

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