This article ran in the July 14 issue of Progress Times.
The Vanguard Academy planned to construct an elementary campus on a vacant lot on Stewart Road. But after receiving significant opposition from residents in the area, Mission City Council denied the request to rezone the tract of land at the July 10 meeting.
Vanguard is a charter school district scheduled to open a new campus by the start of the 2023-2024 school year. What is known as the Monet Campus is at 1020 Los Ebanos Road in Mission. According to a proposal from the charter, the existing Monet campus has approximately 1,200 students in grades pre-kindergarten to 10th.
But the district also wanted to build an expansion elementary campus on a 19-acre tract of land next to 2907 N. Stewart Road. The expansion campus would have allowed for an additional 1,200 students and another option for education in the area.
“We have excellent schools here in Mission. My kids went to Mission…and I honor all those schools. But we want to afford another opportunity,” said Principal Belinda Guzman of the Vanguard Monet Campus.
Guzman, a Mission resident of 23 years, said the charter district is growing and enrolling students from all over the Valley. Currently, the new Monet Campus on Los Ebanos has 178 students enrolled. She tried stressing that opening an expansion campus on Stewart would be a good thing for the community.
“If you live around that area, we’re going to improve your streets,” she said. “We’re here to help you, be with you and not against you.”
However, neighboring residents had concerns.
On at least two separate occasions, dating back to 2022, residents spoke against the agenda item at city meetings. Their main concerns were that Stewart Road could not sustain the increase in traffic that comes with a new school district, and adding a school is inconsistent with Mission’s future land use map, which designates the area as lower dense residential. Additionally, the residents submitted a petition reflecting 49% opposition going into the July 10 meeting.
Julio Cerda, former Mission city manager and current Sharyland ISD trustee, spoke on behalf of the opposing residents.
“Major financial decisions were made by my neighbors and me to invest heavily in this general area. Logically and reasonably, all of us expected that this vacant acreage would someday be rezoned for residential homes,” Cerda said. “Aside from vacant acreage, the only land use is large single family residential. It is a quiet area and developing almost 20 acres for a school with all its traffic nightmares would definitely be detrimental to the peace and enjoyment of a quiet residential setting.”
The segment of Stewart located along the proposed tract of land is a two-lane roadway, marked to accommodate one lane of traffic in each direction. According to Vanguard’s traffic analysis, the proposed area of Steward Road carries about 6,212 vehicles daily, with the capacity to carry up to 10,000.
But Vanguard’s engineering consultants — Aldana Engineering & Traffic Design — made a few recommendations to improve traffic operations:
- widening Stewart Road from 55 feet to 62 feet to accommodate three southbound lanes and two northbound lanes
- employing security patrols to direct traffic flow in and out of the proposed school during peak hours
- staggering student release times
- adding a traffic signal at the intersection of Stewart Road and E. Mile 2 Road, and a possible traffic signal at Stewart Road and 30th Street if needed
According to Aldana Engineering’s analysis, adding an elementary school would not have a detrimental impact on the area if the city of Mission made the adjustments. But the planning and zoning commission, the city manager and the city council were not persuaded.
“I too am about choices for schools. If we have more choices for our children, I think it’s a great thing. Competition is good and I think it would be great,” Councilmember Abiel Flores said. “The problem here, that I see, is that there are certain locations that schools should be in…Now, putting a school in a residential area, it’s a lot more difficult. It brings challenges that are hard to overcome and I think that’s the scenario that we have here…I think we’re past the part of adding schools to that area. And for those reasons I would vote no.”
In a 4-0 vote, the mayor and council denied Vanguard Academy’s request for rezoning the tract of land.