Following a celebration of Board Appreciation Month, Trustees approved a plan to expand PreK from half-day to full-day and budget parameters for the 2020–21 school year at their Jan. 23 regular meeting.
Board Approves PreK Expansion Proposal
Trustees stressed the need for clarity regarding the eligibility requirements and the limited scope of the tuition-based option as it approved the plan for expanding PreK from a half-day to a full-day program in accordance with House Bill 3. The Board also requested further information about how the limited number of tuition-based slots will be filled and further study on the enrollment cost to families.
LISD PreK will grow from six community schools to 13 to accommodate an expected 94-percent increase in enrollment. 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 plan includes a limited tuition-based option to offset costs, allowing families who do not qualify for free PreK an opportunity to enroll their children. LISD staff made it clear that the very limited number of tuition-based spots is part of the district’s effort to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars by filling out the available spots on a given campus, as well as balancing the numbers to provide the most robust learning environment for the district’s littlest students.
“There are some places that we are putting PreK and those (enrollment) numbers might be lower,” Trustee Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said. “For the kids that qualify for that PreK, the benefit is having other (tuition-based) children with them.”
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.
District to engage community regarding adjusting school day schedules to add play, meet special program needs
Leander ISD will ask the community what the district needs to consider when developing a plan to potentially adjust the start and end times of the school day before taking that feedback back to a committee for further study.
LISD staff clarified that:
- no recommendation or decision on adding minutes to the school day had been made;
- the schedule in the presentation was put forth by request and is only an example;
- the purpose of the outreach is to understand the impact on families; and
- as a fast-growth district, LISD does not anticipate saving money by potentially lengthening the school day.
Trustees have asked the committee, made up of Board members, teachers, principals and administrative staff, to explore the idea to offer more flexibility in the school day, something that was quickly identified as a priority of teachers and school staff.
“We learned a lot from the principals and teachers that were there (on the committee),” Board Secretary Grace Barber-Jordan said. “Everything affects something else. It can look simple on paper, but we’re not considering half of what our students and staff deal with on a daily basis.”
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.
Adjusting the school start times would also allow for a triple-tier structure with transportation, creating enough separation in start and end 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.
LISD to Take District Goals Conversation to Community
The district presented details to the Board on the launch of six feeder-based community forums to support discussions on district goals, strategic planning and visioning, and the development of a community-based accountability system. The meeting schedule for each high school feeder pattern is:
|2/3||Vista Ridge HS|
|2/18||Cedar Park HS|
Formal invitations with meeting details will be sent to each group of schools. Attendees will organize into small mixed discussion groups, do a gallery walk to see feedback from other groups and engage in dialogue. The evening will culminate in the expression of ideas through ThoughtExchange and the sharing of some of the prevalent themes that emerge. Following the meeting, the ThoughtExchange link will be shared again with the community to allow those that could not attend to give their perspective and to rate responses.
The Community Conversations on Student Experience are open to all students, parents, staff and community members. While anyone may attend any community forum, attendees are strongly encouraged to join the meeting that includes their school so that LISD can collect the most authentic feedback.
District to Pursue Charter for Attendance Zoning Planning for 2021
The district will start asking community members what they want to achieve with the opening of Tarvin Elementary School in August 2021, located in the Palmera Ridge subdivision. The project team hopes to learn the community’s priorities for a zoning plan. Community preferences (core values) typically include a focus on maintaining feeder patterns, relieving overcrowded schools, balancing enrollments, or minimizing changes for students.
Leander ISD will add more than 1,000 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 in the northeast region of the district on the Ronald Reagan corridor.
As part of the zoning process, the district will also evaluate the zoning of bilingual students to the four existing host campuses: Bagdad, Knowles, Reed and Whitestone elementary schools. The district will solicit targeted feedback from these affected bilingual families to examine any changes to how bilingual students feed to one of the four host campuses, as outlined in the Dual Language Program section of the English Language Learners page.
LISD expects to give families at least 12 months of notice before the adopted zoning plan for the 2021–22 school year goes into effect.
Trustees Greenlight Budget Parameters for 2020–21
Board members approved budget assumptions/parameters that will be used as a starting point in building the 2020–21 budget. LISD staff will begin building the budget according to this framework and take into consideration the following estimates:
- Student enrollment of 42,870
- Property value growth based on 6%
- 2% pay increase
- Campus-per-student allocations are maintained
- Maintaining 2 cents for major maintenance levy
- M&O tax rate of $.95114 and I&S tax rate of $.4675
Enrollment numbers are based on the most recent demographic study adjusted for PreK. Expenditure projections incorporate the expansion of PreK to a full-day program.