Extending into the early morning of Friday, Trustees tackled various significant changes for the district’s 42,000 students, including adjustments to the school day, elementary attendance zones, district goals, and the expansion of PreK from half-day to full-day for qualifying students.
The agenda review meeting will set up next week’s regular meeting as the district celebrates Board Appreciation Month. The community is invited to our celebration at 5:45 p.m. Jan. 23 at the LEO Conference Center.
District considers adjusting school day schedules to add play, meet special program needs and improve bus driver staffing
More time for play, enrichment and tutorial periods – with an eye toward meeting requirements for trade and rigorous academic programs – is leading Trustees to consider an adjustment to school start times and lengthening the school day.
The district is considering adding minutes to all three levels to offer more flexibility in the school day, something that was quickly identified as a priority of teachers and school staff.
In secondary schools, a longer day would allow for specialized study, such as career and technical education and International Baccalaureate programs. For elementary, the extra minutes would allow for more “wiggle” or “play” time. Many of Leander ISD’s peer districts, like Round Rock ISD and Lake Travis ISD, have similar bell schedules with these goals in mind.
“More time at school for an elementary school student may create a less stressful day,” Board Vice President Aaron Johnson said. “That may seem a little counterintuitive, but it’s an interesting point.”
The Board will have another opportunity to discuss school start times during their Jan. 23 meeting. A draft the district is considering would set school times as:
- 7:40 a.m. – 3 p.m. for elementary, adding 15 minutes;
- 8:20 a.m. – 3:40 p.m. for middle, adding 10 minutes; and
- 9 a.m. – 4:20 p.m. for high, adding 15 minutes.
Adjusting the school start times would also allow for a triple-tier structure with transportation, creating enough separation in start times to allow most bus drivers to drive three routes instead of two. In addition to easing congestion for neighboring middle and high schools, this system could make it easier for filling open bus driver positions, which have been under-filled for several years.
Board to Vote on PreK Expansion Proposal
The district expects its plan for expanding PreK from a half-day to a full-day program will grow from six community schools to 13 to accommodate an expected 94-percent increase in enrollment. With the adoption of House Bill 3, the state of Texas requires districts to offer full-day PreK for students who qualify.
Research shows 90 percent of brain development occurs before age 5. PreK increases kindergarten readiness, language acquisition, and the odds a child will read on grade level by third grade.
The district estimates the cost for PreK will be $4.2 million annually with an additional, first-year start-up expense of $2.5 million. The proposed plan would also include a limited tuition-based option to offset costs, allowing families who do not qualify for free PreK an opportunity to enroll their children. The Board could approve the proposal at its Jan. 23 meeting.
Board Continues Discussion on Goals, District to Take Conversation to Community
Trustees discussed individual education plans for all students, a focus on early literacy, school choice, the Leander Way, and strategic planning during its continued discussion on the district’s goals. The district also presented details to the Board on the launch of six feeder-based community forums to support these discussions.
“The entire community is hearing each Board member talk about what each of us brings forward to be here,” Trustee Jim MacKay said. “Community-based accountability for me is our way to ensure our community has a seat. It’s critically important that we have more open discussions in this form in front of the community.”
Board members engaged in a lengthy and thoughtful discussion about objectives for the district to accomplish. They captured those items for continued discussion at its Jan. 23 regular meeting.
District Launches Attendance Zoning Planning for 2021
Schools will add 1,300 students every year for the next 10 years, resulting in four elementary schools exceeding 120 percent of their designed capacity by 2021, the year LISD will open its 28th elementary school on the Ronald Reagan corridor.
The district will start asking community members what they want to achieve with the opening of Nancy Tarvin Elementary School, located in the Palmera Bluff subdivision beginning in August 2021. The project team hopes to learn the community’s priorities for a zoning plan. Community preferences typically include a focus on maintaining feeder patterns, relieving overcrowded schools, balancing enrollments, or minimizing changes for students. LISD expects to give families at least 12 months of advance notice before the plan goes into effect.