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District eyes changes as construction continues

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

Big changes are happening at Lockhart Independent School District.

Applications have been accepted and interviews are under way to choose a principal for the new Alma Brewer Strawn Elementary School, currently under construction near Lytton Springs, and as the opening date for the school draws near

, logistic problems have presented themselves to the District’s administration.

Superintendent Susan Bohn reported to the Board on Monday evening that she has been eyeing, in particular, staffing and transportation as the District works toward determining how the school will be populated.

“We are looking at a lot of issues regarding efficiency and operations, and I’ve been gathering data to bring back to the forefront issues that we have previously discussed,” she said. “The information I’m giving you has come from a lot of sources – from teachers, principals, parents and other sources within the community.”

Bohn reported concerns in particular about student transportation.

Approximately 2,500 LISD students ride the bus to school each day, and nearly half of those are on their assigned campuses at or before 7:10 a.m. Many wait more than 30 minutes on campus to be picked up by their bus each day.

“I want to make clear that this is not a vendor problem,” she said. “This is a product of a system that we have created, and STS is working under our instruction. What we have to fix is something that we created.”

Notably, Bohn said, staff are required to arrive on campus early, and leave late while supervising students that are simply waiting. The “waiting” makes it difficult on everyone, she said, as many times students have to sit outside or in a hallway, reading or engaging in other educational activities, but are not given the opportunity to socialize or play.

“It’s important,” she said, “to remember that savings in bus routes or in staffing are secondary bonuses. What we are really interested in here is the student experience.”

At least one student in the District, she said, begins their school day when they are picked up at 5:55 a.m., and does not return home until dropped off at 5:40 p.m.

“That’s a long day for a child,” she said.

In an effort to counteract the problem, particularly in light of the projected opening of Strawn Elementary this fall, Bohn and her leadership team have been discussing the possibility of both staggered bell schedules, and “attendance zones” that will determine where children attend elementary schools.

“We can do better for the students,” she said. “But you can’t make significant improvements without significant changes.”

A staggered bell schedule, she surmised, would allow for shorter bus routes for younger students, while making the bus routes more age appropriate.

“As a parent, I have concerns with kids as young as 5 being on the bus with kids as old as 16,” she said. “I think that the routes could be more appropriately aged.”

In regards to attendance zones, she said the plans were still in the works, but that community input would be sought on both issues to determine, not only what will best fit the needs of the District, but also of the communities and families it serves.

Board Vice President Steve Johnson noted the problems, particularly regarding attendance zones, are problems that the District itself created in the past.

“We did this when we built so many elementary schools so close together, and didn’t make plans for how to assign the kids then,” he said.

Presently, students are assigned to elementary schools based on student population and classroom availability, despite their geographic location.

Trustee Jon Reyes noted some parents may have concern with the notion of attendance zones, worrying that it might cause division in the community as people have visions of “neighborhood schools.”

“I can see where a parent might wonder why their child is assigned to one elementary, while their neighbor’s child goes to another,” he said. “Will there be a way that a parent can request their child go to one school or another.”

Another topic that came to light is the notion of “grandfathering,” or allowing students currently enrolled at a particular campus to remain there, once the attendance zone lines are drawn.

Monday night’s conversation, Bohn stressed, was simply an introduction of the concepts, which will continue to be discussed amongst the Administration, and be opened up for community input after the holidays.

The Trustees also heard an update on the construction project at Lockhart High School, which is moving along well within the structured timeline.

According to project manager Jo Zunker, construction is nearing completion on the expansion of the Lockhart High School Field House, in advance of the Auto Technology classes moving into the area at the beginning of next semester, while the new construction of the “Career and Technology Education” wing is completed.

Additionally, she noted, the Lockhart High School track will be closed to the public, effective Dec. 16, as demolition and renovations on the stadium are slated to begin over the holiday break.

Varsity soccer games this season will be held at the Lockhart Junior High School Football Field, as construction takes place at Lion Stadium.

In other business, the Board heard a presentation about the current and projected demographics of the Lockhart Independent School District, which is slated to see around 1.8 percent growth over the next five years.

According to figures presented to the Trustees, growth is fastest in the area bordered by FM 1185 and Highway 183, commonly the “Lytton Springs area,” based on the explosive growth of high-volume mobile home subdivisions being introduced in that area.

Still, with the projected opening of Strawn Elementary, the District is projected to have ample capacity for elementary student population growth for the next 9-10 years, if growth holds stable. However, should Lockhart ISD see an explosive population growth in the next few years, that capacity could hold for a maximum of five years.

“There are too many wild cards to say for sure at this point,” Board President Brenda Spillmann noted.

After a lengthy executive session, the Trustees offered probationary one-year contracts to several teachers and other staffers.

They also attended to several matters of “routine housekeeping,” including policy updates mandated by the Texas Education Agency, and a review of the District’s recent financial review.

The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees routinely meets on the fourth Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the library at Lockhart Junior High School. However, because of the school holiday, the next meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 14. The meetings are open to the public and are webcast at www.lockhartisd.org.

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