Slowdown, drilling put plans for Mansfield school on hold

School plans slowed

MANSFIELD - Natural gas drilling is putting the brakes on school construction in one north Texas district.

A new study says a massive infusion of gas wells, along with the housing crisis, is stalling new homes and enrollment.

The change could cost the district.

The Johnsons moved to Mansfield for the schools and the space. Their house was among the first in their subdivision.

"As a matter of fact, there were only about four on our street," said Renardis Johnson.

Four years later, they still love the schools, but are finding more people sharing their slice of paradise.

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Vacant land is now poised for drilling, not housing.

"Now, as you can see, they're all full. There are no vacant lots anymore," said Johnson.

Mansfield ISD's enrollment grew to more than 30,000, prompting plans for new schools, but now those plans are changing.

"New housing starts for us are approximately one-half of what we had been experiencing," said Mansfield ISD Superintendent Vernon Newsom.

The reason, according to a study released by the district, is the housing crisis, along with they call a "massive infusion" of gas wells.

The study identifies 23 subdivisions canceled or stalled; most of the land is now slated for natural gas drilling.

The district is almost certain the construction of a new high school will be delayed by one year, to 2012, because of this.

A new elementary school may be delayed as well.

Delays can be costly.

Newsom said the district is watching the cost of materials closely and is "poised to move if necessary."

The silver lining, he added, is that more gradual enrollment increases could give the district a breather.

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