LHISD planning for new elementary school

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By SHELLY WILKISON

With enrollment at both elementary schools inching up to capacity, Superintendent Rob Hart told school trustees Monday that administrators are working on a plan for another bond election to build a new elementary school.

Hart presented numbers showing that Liberty Hill Elementary School, which houses pre-kindergarten through first grade, is only 51 students shy of its 600-student capacity.

And Bill Burden Elementary, which houses second through fourth grades, is 110 students away from its capacity of 800.

“We will have to have a bond issue soon for an elementary school to ease crowding,” Hart said. “These are scarey numbers.”

School district voters narrowly approved an $86 million bond package in 2010 that funded the construction of a new high school campus, additional classroom space at what is now Liberty Hill Intermediate School, and renovations at Liberty Hill Junior High and the elementary campus. However, the package did not add classroom space at LHES or Bill Burden.

“We have added 651 students since the bond election (2010) — that’s a whole 3A high school,” Hart said.

Hart, who also presented results of the fourth quarter 2014 demographic study, said as interest rates remain lower, younger families with younger children are able to afford new homes in Liberty Hill area subdivisions.

Hart said tollways and access to mass transit are also making the community more attractive to those who commute to Austin for work.

While the item was presented for information only, Hart said administrators are looking at facility capacity along with enrollment projections in planning future campus needs.

In 2014, Hart told The Independent that a new elementary school would be needed by 2016, and said a logical location would be near Santa Rita Ranch off Ronald Reagan Blvd. and State Highway 29. The Reagan corridor is the fastest growing area of the school district.

The Intermediate campus, which houses fifth and sixth grades, is 300 students away from reaching its capacity of 800.

The Junior High, is almost 400 students from its 900-capacity, and the high school is 600 students away from its 1,600 capacity.

The primary reason cited for Liberty Hill’s growth is the quality of its schools, and administrators presented to trustees Monday a synopsis of the 2013-2014 Texas Academic Performance Report.

The report, which can be found on the school district’s website at www.libertyhill.txed.net, contains detailed information about student performance on standardized tests, teachers and staff, programs, district financials, school discipline, graduation rates and student demographics. The report is required annually by state law.

With regard to student performance on the STAAR exams, the report showed gains with some populations like Special Education, which Curriculum Director Claudeane Braun attributed to the process of inclusion in general education classrooms.

Specifically, she noted gains on the writing portion of the test. Special education teachers and English techers are working together to help student progress.

“They (special education students) learn best when exposed to the general curriculum,” she said.

For the most part, LHISD students performed at higher levels in state and regional comparisons.

Other information worth noting included:

– LHHS dropout rate was .08 percent.

– The 2013 average SAT score for Liberty Hill was just over 1500, and the average ACT score was just over 23.

– Liberty Hill’s student ethnic distribution for 2014 was 77 percent white compared to 52 percent statewide, 18.6 percent Hispanic compared to 52 percent statewide, and 1 percent African-American compared to 13 percent statewide.

– Economically disadvantaged students comprised 25.5 percent of Liberty Hill’s enrollment in 2014 compared to 60.2 percent statewide. English language learners were at 2.9 percent compared to the 17.5 percent state average. Students with disciplinary placements in 2012-2013 were 1.8 percent of the district compared to 1.6 percent statewide. And students defined as at-risk were 34.3 percent in LHISD and 50 percent statewide.

– Almost 93 percent of Liberty Hill teachers are White.

– 38 percent of local teachers have between 11-20 years of experience.

– The report showed no violent or criminal incidents at school in 2014.

– A 2014 Discipline Report showed 7 incidents of possession of a controlled substance, 2 incidents of acoholic beverage possession, 9 incidents of tobacco possession, 783 violations of the Code of Conduct.

– LHISD has 100 percent highly qualified teachers, meaning all are teaching with the proper certifications.

The Board also adopted goals and performance objectives to make improvements in all areas at the district and campus levels.

In recent months, parents of FFA students have been addressing the Board during the Public Comments portion of the meetings, asking for improvements and repairs to the agriculture barn facility on the junior high campus.

On Monday, freshman student Rhett Lee thanked trustees for the repairs that have been made thus far, but said more are needed.

“We have faith that you will perform the tasks needed,” Lee said.

Parent Shannon Bailey said the concerns being brought to the Board are directly related to student safety. She suggested that restrooms be provided, as well as a concession stand for use during livestock shows.

Parent Shawn Bunting shared with trustees photos of the Cedar Park High School ag facility for comparison purposes. And parent David Roebuch spoke about the recent successes of ag students at livestock shows. Roebuck also gave Hart and each elected official a cap.

At the end of the meeting, Hart read from a list of improvements that have been made at the facility in recent months.

Those include the following: – Windows, roof, ceiling grid and tiles repaired on portable building. – Show arena panels and gates welded. – Installed motion lights for sheep barn, arena, and security lights at pig barn. – Installed motion lights for parking lot. – Water leak repaired at steer wash area. – PVC water pipes have been insulated. – Replaced ground fault plugs with ground fault breakers. – Replaced florescent lighting in Barn B and C. – Plan to replace door on Barn C when animals are out. – Materials on hand to close Barn A when pigs are out. – Administrators met with agriculture teachers about work order procedures.

In other business, the Board:

– Approved a Joint Election Agreement and Contract for Election Services with Williamson County to run the May 9 school board election. Trustees also approved an order calling the election.

– Heard a report on construction at the new LHISD Administration Building. The building will be ready for move-in in mid-March.

– Accepted the resignations of high school Assistant Principal Robert Stoss, who is retiring; and Willard Fulton, a special education teacher at the Intermediate school.

– Approved the employment of Renee (Chelle) Harrison as a pre-kindergarten teacher for the new position created last month.

– Extended by one year the contracts of Athletic Director Jerry Vance, along with central office and campus administrators Bobby Mabry, Chad Pirtle, Kathy Major, Terrie Chambers, Melanie Herbst, D’Onda Kristan, Annette Coe, Mike Benson, Scott Copeland, Shellie Brewer, Robert Parks, Frank Watson, Paul Urban, Elyse Tarlton, Sherry Hall and Jennifer Hanna.

– Changed the monthly meeting date for March to 6 p.m. March 25 at Bill Burden Elementary. Spring Break is scheduled on the Board’s regular meeting date. Also Monday, the Board recognized the achievements of dozens of junior high and sixth grade students who participated in recent UIL academic contests. Many of those students attended the meeting and were congratulated individually by Board members.

Following the meeting, trustees and administrators enjoyed a meal prepared by students in the high school’s Culinary Arts classes under the direction of teacher Kathy Becker.

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