Trustees discuss planning to re-open schools for 2020–21, adjusting school start times during remote meeting.

Meeting remotely, the Board of Trustees met for an agenda review meeting on May 14, 2020, to discuss the response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, a proposal to adjust school start and end times, and the district’s community outreach efforts around student experience.

Review the agenda materials

District discusses planning for summer, the opening school in 2020-21

The district presented details regarding the planning for starting the 2020-21 school year while the world continues responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. Area Superintendent Devin Padavil, Ed.D., presented a continuum of services based on scenarios ranging from complete remote learning to a normal return to school. 

“During these uncertain times, we need to stay optimistic and to plan out each possible path forward so we can support students and learning,” Padavil said. 

Trustees discussed providing choice for families when returning to school, social distancing in classrooms, counseling support, professional learning support for teachers, and budget implications.

“I would encourage us to balance all of their interests to find a model for a school that is stable and consistent, particularly for our families with young students,” Board Vice President Aaron Johnson said.

While the Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently released proposed scenarios and programs for school districts to use for extending school calendars and adding remote assessments for students, in the absence of the State Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) this year, Superintendent Bruce Gearing Ed.D., said the district is not currently exploring those options for Leander ISD.

“We know moving forward, we need to do what’s in the best interest of Leander ISD,“ Superintendent Gearing said. “We’re committed to continuing to listen to our community, work with our principals and teachers, and plan to serve the needs of students, while maximizing the safety of students, staff, and our families.” 

The district will announce on June 19 more details regarding the opening scenarios for the 2020-21 school year with a decision about how schools will open coming in July. 

Trustees discuss possible change to school start, end times

Trustees discussed the use of additional minutes and the early start time for elementary school students as part of proposed, adjusted school start and end times. After almost two years of discussion and consideration, Assistant Superintendent John Graham presented the updated proposal to change the school day times, adding minutes in order to:

  • allow for more transition, play, and social time at elementary schools; 
  • get closer to meeting minutes requirements for career and technical education (CTE) certification courses and International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme students; and 
  • improve efficiency for transportation by creating more time in between routes, allowing some drivers to support three routes instead of two routes.

The proposed schedule change adjusts school start and end times to:

  • Elementary: 7:40 a.m. – 2:55 p.m. (adding 10 minutes)
  • Middle: 8:10 a.m. – 3:25 p.m. (adding 5 minutes)
  • High: 8:40 a.m. – 4 p.m. (adding 15 minutes)

“If we do this, we need to know that time will be used for breaks or playtime,” Trustee Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said. 

The proposed schedule comes after the district received community feedback from 4,798 people regarding an earlier iteration of the proposal. In that survey, respondents expressed concerns over ending school too late, increased traffic, extending the school day, and the request to add minutes in order to reduce school days. Through a bell schedule committee, made up of school and district administrators, the district amended the schedule to address concerns. 

“I hope that we seize this opportunity to add playtime for our little ones, because we know that is so important,” Trustee Elexis Grimes said.

With COVID-19 and the uncertain opening for the 2020-21 school year, Trustees discussed the timing of the decision. 

“This may be the best opportunity to address these problems and add minutes, because we may need more instructional time to meet the needs of our students,” said John Graham, speaking to the needs of students after the closing of school buildings due to COVID-19.

Trustees review student experience data from community forums, online surveys

After engaging more than 4,000 parents, teachers, staff, students and community members through public forums and an online survey, the district presented data captured on student experience. 

The district asked participants in conversations specific to each high school feeder pattern (elementary-middle-high school groupings) the question: “What are the most important things our schools should do for each and every student in LISD?”

Chief Academic Officer Matt Bentz, Ed.D., and interim Chief Technology Officer Laurelyn Arterbury, Ed.D., presented the top categories or themes identified by respondents in the ThoughtExchange surveys. Across the entire district, respondents valued ideas around post-graduate planning, social/emotional learning, safety, traffic, teachers, individualized learning, and grading/class rank. 

After receiving the responses, principals reviewed submissions to identify trends for specific feeder patterns, identifying the following themes: 

Cedar Park High School Feeder Pattern 

  • Students feel safe and valued
  • Meaningful learning for all
  • Focus on the whole child

Glenn High School Feeder Pattern

  • Social/emotional learning 
  • Individualized learning 
  • Teachers

Leander High School Feeder Pattern

  • Individualized learning
  • Social/emotional learning and safety 
  • Post-graduation prep

Rouse High School Feeder Pattern

  • Individualized learning
  • Social/emotional learning and safety
  • Post-graduation prep

Vandegrift High School Feeder Pattern

  • Grades (GPA/Rank)
  • Social/emotional learning
  • Student interest

Vista Ridge High School Feeder Pattern

  • Safe environment
  • Social-emotional learning 
  • Voice and choice

The district will present on student experience as part of the June 10 State of the District event and at the June 11 Board of Trustees meeting on the Community Conversations on Equity and Access. The district plans to use this data to lay a foundation for designing a Community-Based Accountability System. 

District delays hazardous routes discussion for June

Discussions and considerations to adjust the district’s hazardous routes bus service program, serving students who live within two miles of their assigned school, will continue in June. The administration asked to remove the item so the transportation team could take more time to review routes before setting a final recommendation for bus service to students qualifying as having a hazardous route.