TWI no longer accepting new students
Starting this fall, no new kindergartners will be admitted to TWI, and existing students will progress through the program as intended. The bilingual program is offered at Fielder and Memorial Parkway elementary schools for grades K-5.
The district said it chose to end the program as a way to relieve Fielder Elementary—which is 25 percent over its design capacity for enrollment—and because the program as a whole was too expensive for the number of students it served.
Trustees did not allow for a public comment portion at the end of Monday’s meeting, but after the adjournment parents gathered around Superintendent Lance Hindt to protest the decision. Many had worn white as a sign of solidarity, and they said they were angry the district did not offer an alternative funding mechanism for the program or provide cost comparisons for other special KISD programs.
“Let me tell you, I looked at possibly doing a fee per student [for TWI], but we can’t do that without forming an in-school, private school charter, which you have to go to state,” Hindt said to a crowd of parents after the meeting. “I don’t want you all to think I haven’t spent a lot of time on this.”
Meanwhile, west of KISD, Sealy ISD is planning to launch its own TWI program partly inspired by KISD’s model. The pilot will start with kindergartners and expand as they age through the curriculum, SISD Bilingual Coordinator Emily Eschenburg said.
Following Monday’s KISD meeting, Eschenburg said her district does accept out-of-district transfers and that she had already received some calls from KISD families about TWI. Her staff discussed the possibility of taking KISD children for the program if space allows. SISD will get its second elementary school this fall, but Eschenburg said it was not yet certain whether TWI will launch at both campuses.
Class start times changed to mitigate transportation woes
The board voted 6-1, with trustee Rebecca Fox being the lone “no” vote, to change class start times for elementary and junior high school students in the 2018-19 school year. The change was made as a way to relieve bus drivers. KISD said it needs 35 more drivers and as a result is unable to keep up with the demand for bus service.
The new class times are:
- Elementary schools (Group 1): 8 a.m.-3:20 p.m.
- Elementary schools (Group 2): 8:20 a.m.-3:40 p.m.
- Junior high schools: 8:45 a.m.-3:55 p.m.
- High schools: 7:25 a.m.-2:35 p.m.
With the new class times, bus transportation eligibility will remain the same but drivers can better stagger the routes, as a growing student population is straining the existing routes. Fox had said at the Feb. 19 work study that she disapproved of the proposed class times and would rather see high school students start last, to get more sleep. However, the majority of respondents on a districtwide survey in January indicated they preferred high schoolers to start first.
Hindt said the district would likely outline in April which elementary schools would start at each time. KISD Chief Operations Officer Lee Crews said the groups were created because the district has significantly more elementary schools than other campuses.
New instructional calendars passed—for two years
At the recommendation of the superintendent, the board voted to approve new instruction calendars for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The year will start Aug. 15 and end May 23, with a weeklong Thanksgiving break and a spring break from March 11-15.
The calendar dates were recommended based on a districtwide survey held in January and February, in which 65 percent of respondents chose the approved calendar.
New school construction contracts approved
Trustees approved contracts to build High School No. 9 and Junior High School No. 16, both of which were in the 2017 bond package. Satterfield & Pontikes Construction will build the high school and attached natatorium for $138.2 million, while Drymalla Construction Company will build the junior high school for $42.9 million. The schools’ proposed project totals were $166.8 million and $51.4 million, respectively, both of which are less than their bond allocations.
Naming committee launched for future elementary school
Submissions are open until 4 p.m. March 6 for the future Elementary School No. 41, which is being constructed in Cross Creek Ranch and will be completed this year as part of the 2017 bond package. Those interested in nominating a moniker for the new campus should submit an official form, which is available on KISD’s website. Nominations should include biographical data for the namesake in question, their significant contributions and a statement of why the school should be named after him or her, according to the district.