Aldine ISD continues to work and roll out Bond 2015 projects. While this is going on, the District has reconfigured the grade spans at most of its early childhood/prekindergarten to middle school buildings for the 2018-2019 school year. The changes include new boundaries for campus enrollment.
Discussions about reconfiguration began in 2014-2015. District leaders focused on planning for the future. They worked with a steering committee and outside consultants. Those discussions and studies led to the $798 million bond referendum. Voters approved the bonds in November of 2015. The referendum centered on growth and meeting educational needs, which included looking at facilities. Bond 2015 projects include new schools, technology installation and upgrades. Other projects are campus renovations and repairs.
“We studied the analyses conducted by the consultants,” Superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg said. “We considered what was working. We also discussed making changes to maximize student achievement and learning opportunities.
“We weren‘t just thinking of 2014–2015 or 2017–2018. We were also thinking about 2020 and beyond.”
One of the recommendations was to reconfigure grade spans at the campuses. It is not a new concept in school systems. Reconfiguration would create more efficient use of District resources.
Currently, grade levels are early childhood/prekindergarten (EC/PreK Centers), kindergarten (K) through grade 4 make up the elementary campuses. Grades 5 and 6 comprise intermediate schools. Grades 7 and 8 comprise middle schools. The District has stand-alone ninth grade schools. In the last group, grades 10 through 12 comprise the high school campuses.
In 2018-2019, the District is removing the transition to intermediate campuses. The grade configuration will change to EC/PreK/K for schools with the youngest students. First through fifth grade levels will comprise the elementary schools. Middle schools will be comprised of sixth through eighth grades. Ninth grade campuses and high schools will not change.
In the 1980s, AISD underwent reconfiguration. At the time, the District was experiencing rapid growth. The addition of intermediate schools seemed ideal to handle growth.
Bamberg stressed that much has changed since then. For instance, the bar to pass state standardized tests keeps increasing. We also live in a more competitive, globalizing world. This too is impacting instructional programming.
In 2014-2015, the analyses conducted by consultants indicated that the age of several of AISD campuses warranted new schools. Additionally, demographers stated that Aldine would see faster student growth. That growth has slowed down. However, the District still looked to address possible changing student enrollments across Aldine. This meant aligning building capacity to enrollment and maximizing use of facilities.
“Reconfiguration makes sense to address these areas,” Bamberg said. “As we shape the future of Aldine, we are creating optimal learning environments.”
Research suggests that reducing the number of campus transitions is good for students. Transitions can be stressful. They also interrupt positive relationships students have with teachers, administrators and class peers. Fewer transitions are also connected with higher achievement.
Bamberg also emphasized that it is not the location that impacts student learning. Instead, it is the educational experience that students receive. It is this that creates the potential to improve student learning. The experience includes instructional leadership, setting high expectations and monitoring of student progress. This also entails maximizing learning opportunities and positive communication.
“It is in the best interest of our students,” Bamberg said. “This will set the stage for academic improvement to occur.”
Reconfiguration also creates a setting better tailored to the needs of the early adolescent learner. Additionally, sixth graders will have earlier access to extracurricular activities. Studies show that students who take part in these activities do better in school. The earlier access also aims to better connect students to opportunities.
District leaders also hope to see an increase in another area: parent involvement. With students staying longer at one school, staff will have more time to strengthen these relationships. Parents are vital to improving student achievement.
A total of 58 of the 77 campuses will undergo reconfiguration. They include:
Early childhood (EC/PreK/K) campuses that will not see changes include Jones, de Santiago and García-Leza. These campuses are already serving kindergarten students.
The EC/PreK/K campuses will see a name change. They will be known as “schools” instead of “centers.” This will avoid the public confusing the schools with child daycare facilities.
Mendel Elementary School was set to close at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Due to Hurricane Harvey, it closed earlier than scheduled. Mendel kindergarten students are now housed at García-Leza. First through fourth grade students are housed at Greenspoint Elementary School.
Magrill Elementary School and Stovall Academy will also undergo a change. They will convert to Magrill EC/PreK/K School and Stovall EC/PreK/K School, respectively. Building conversions involve construction and renovations to ensure facilities meet younger students’ needs.
Three magnet schools will not change: Houston (Grades: 5 & 6), Drew (Grades: 7 & 8) and Reece (PreK & K) academies. They will continue to serve their current grade levels.
The following changes will take place:
Campuses with discontinued magnet programs — Carroll, Smith, Harris, Stovall, Hill and Raymond — will see a name change. They will officially drop “Academy” from their names and will use “School” (e.g. Carroll Elementary School).
Reconfiguration will lower student enrollment numbers in a majority of existing elementary campuses. This will help campuses focus on students’ individual academic and social needs.
As Aldine ISD constructs new campuses, these facilities will be larger. AISD began the trend when it built Greenspoint Elementary School. The campus was a Bond 2007 project.
The new schools replacing the older Francis and Johnson elementary campuses are set to open in fall 2018. They will be 30 percent larger compared to typical models built years ago. The new campuses are among a couple of the construction projects from Bond 2015.
The new campuses will showcase learning communities that focus on individual academic strengths. The design also responds to modern-day teaching and learning applications.
The new elementary and middle schools are being designed to keep students in the same grade-level wing of the school or clusters. This will create learning environments that will give students a positive experience.
“The settings will not feel like large campuses,” Bamberg explained. “Each grade–level cluster will feel like a ‘school–within–a–school.‘ Students will generally have the same teachers and block of classes together.”
The District has already made principal and assistant principal assignments. Others making the move include teachers, counselors, nurses, child nutrition and support staff.
When District leaders looked at staff assignments, they looked for optimal placements. The goal was to keep the majority of teachers working in their grade level.
“Everyone will be working together to improve the instructional program at their campuses,” Bamberg said.
Campuses will have new attendance zones and boundaries. This will optimize enrollment capacity and balance enrollment between schools. The District will assign affected students as well as notify families. Again, boundary changes will determine campus enrollment.
Additionally, the better aligned feeder patterns will better connect neighborhoods and neighborhood schools. The changes will do a better job of keeping classmates together from one school level to the next.
Bamberg reiterated that restructuring grade levels would improve the instructional program. The new EC-12 geographic feeder patterns set up more coherent, aligned planning structures. They foster better transitions across grades and school levels. For example, rather than middle schools meeting and planning instruction and interventions in isolation, the elementary schools in one neighborhood would meet with the feeder pattern’s middle schools and high school. Instructional plans and interventions could be viewed from EC through 12th grade.
Visit the school locator on the District website. Parents can type in their address and all the schools connected to it will be listed. The site includes a frequently asked questions page (FAQ). For questions about new boundaries, contact Assistant Superintendent Ken Knippel at (281) 985-6645.
Bamberg lauded the staff for the amazing work they are already doing. She pointed that this is an opportunity to build on this. Everyone wants to give students the best experience possible.
“The changes are about doing what is best for kids to better educate and prepare them for their future,” Bamberg said.
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