In keeping with its plan to create more schools of choice in the district, officials are turning Wells Branch Elementary School in North Austin and Berkman Elementary School in Round Rock into visual and performing arts academies.
At its board meeting Feb. 18, trustees approved $135,000 for a new cafeteria stage at Wells Branch as part of the project.
Corey Ryan, RRISD executive director of communications and community relations, said both campuses would also receive new dance facilities.
The district has strong arts programs in its high schools, and it aims to spread the programs into its elementary and middle schools, he said.
Ryan said students from schools outside of the Wells Branch and Berkman attendance zones would be able to transfer into one of the arts academies, but he does not foresee many students transferring out of the school for a more traditional elementary education.
“We think in elementary school, it will appeal to students of all interests,” Ryan said. “Kids just want to be engaged at that level.”
In the spring, representatives from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ professional development program will visit teachers on both campuses and help them integrate arts into the core curriculum, Ryan said.
The opening of Joe Lee Johnson Elementary School on Sauls Drive, which will focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, cut the student population at Wells Branch nearly in half, according to the district. Ryan said lower enrollment at Wells Branch would make it easier for students in other attendance zones in RRISD to transfer into the academy.
The district chose Berkman for its other arts academy because of its location—Ryan said the city of Round Rock is working to create a downtown arts district, which would open the door for partnerships between the city and the school.
In the fall, Ryan said, the district will begin development on a visual and performing arts academy at one of its existing middle schools, possibly C.D. Fulkes Middle School, which is also located in downtown Round Rock.
Ryan said the district is trying to introduce new education models at schools across the district so parents have more options for their children than their neighborhood public school or paying for a private or charter school.
“We want to give taxpayers the most bang for their buck. We feel this is the best way to do it,” he said.
Information on student transfers is available at www.roundrockisd.org/parents/student-transfers.