Elementary boundaries set for next school year
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
When the first day of school rolls around in August the doors will open to Liberty Hill ISD’s fifth elementary school, and now students across the district know which doors they will be walking through.
The LHISD Board of Trustees voted in favor of the new elementary boundaries Monday, and officially introduced the new shift to kindergarten through fifth grade campuses.
Liberty Hill Elementary will be home to most of the students living south of SH 29 and west of Liberty Parke, while Bill Burden will encompass the Stonewall neighborhood and portions of the district west and north of that subdivision on the north side of SH 29.
The newest campus, Noble Elementary, will include Liberty Parke, and portions of the district north along US 183 and along Ronald Reagan Blvd. with the exception of Santa Rita.
Santa Rita Elementary will be comprised primarily of that neighborhood and MorningStar, while Rancho Sienna will be that neighborhood and areas east of MorningStar on the north side of SH29.
“The biggest concern was the neighborhood of Liberty Parke,” said Superintendent Steve Snell. “We wanted to keep that neighborhood together and move them to Noble, but there was lots of conversation about the traffic patterns and how all that is going to work out. We’re going to see how it works next year and if there are any changes that need to be made.”
The decision came after taking into account 603 survey responses from parents, representing 864 of the district’s students. The location of each campus created some challenges, as well as the recognition that over the next decade, five campuses are projected to turn into 15.
“At the end of the day in Liberty Hill is we have three elementary schools right next to each other basically on the same road,” Snell said. “You’ve got Liberty Hill Elementary, the new Noble and Burden, which are basically all within one mile of each other from east to west and we’re pulling in kids from all corners of the district to go to those three schools.”
The goal was to move as few students as possible, and that will remain the case, though some shifts will occur each time campuses are added.
“It’s just impossible to not move anybody,” Snell said. “When you’re going from four schools to five some people will have to get moved, but our promise is we will have an excellent school for them to attend with great teachers and a great educational experience.”
Each of the campuses are expected to be between 450 and 775 students next fall, with each growing by more than a third over the following two years, pending the openings of elementaries six and seven. Liberty Hill Elementary remains at a lower projected enrollment because more students can’t be added until the campus is expanded, a project that is part of the bond proposal on the May 1 election ballot.
Future consideration will also have to be given to the Noble Elementary boundaries as the adopted boundary for the two middle schools splits its enrollment area.
“We’ve got a zone now that’s split between two middle schools in Noble, and we want to kind of shore that up a little bit, but when we get elementary schools six and seven built the boundaries will make more sense,” Snell said.
In addition to having the boundaries established, Snell is looking forward to the shift to a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary and middle school model.
“It gives us more of a true elementary feel and a true middle school feel,” Snell said. “Part of that is keeping the fifth grade at the elementary and letting them assume a leadership role at those elementaries.”
At the middle school level, adding sixth grade and creating small grade level sizes will open new doors as well.
“When we get to sixth, seventh and eighth grades, we really want to take off instructionally,” Snell said. “We want to see project-based learning introduced into the curriculum, I want to see some interdisciplinary options to where they can take the curriculum and put some real world applications to them across those disciplines and really give those middle school kids a chance to explore some careers and some electives.”
Smaller grade levels across the campuses is also a plus for students on a social and participation level with athletics and activity options.
“It will provide an opportunity to know more kids in the grade level and do some things together,” Snell said.
Two weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott curtailed a number of mandatory COVID-19 protection protocols, including rescinding the mask mandate and capacity restrictions on businesses, LHISD has announced how it plans to adjust moving forward.
The primary change will be somewhat looser mask requirements.
“Outdoor activities will be mask optional,” Snell said. “Extracurricular activities, like when parents come to sporting events outside, the mask will be optional.”
Masks will not be optional inside, but there will be more opportunities to remove them in certain circumstances.
“Inside there will be lots of breaks and once students are socially distanced then they can take their mask off for short periods of time,” Snell said. “The data supports that. Where we are in our district we feel it is safe to loosen those mask restrictions. Then we’re going to revisit it in April at the board meeting to see if we can move to Phase 2.”
The district has only four active COVID-19 cases this week, but Snell said there’s a chance that might increase some once again.
“We’re expecting a little bit of a bump after spring break, and the only reason I say that is because we’ve had a bump after every holiday starting with Halloween,” Snell said. “With vaccines in place and all the other county and local data trending downward we’re hoping to finish the school year with very few cases.”
He urges the community to continue to be cautious and adhere to protocols to avoid a new surge and face the same potential end to this school year as last.
“We just want to make sure we stay safe,” Snell said. “We want all of our programs to be able to finish strong. This is when we got shutdown last year and all the spring activities were canceled and we don’t want that to happen again. We want everybody to finish everything they love to participate in. We’re not quite ready yet just to rip off the mask and go 100 percent out there. We want to go slow and responsible.”
The first day of school next Fall will be Aug. 19, and school will end May 26, 2022.
The new academic calendar was adopted by the School Board Monday.
Christmas break will be Dec. 20 through Jan. 3, 2022, and Spring Break will be March 14-18, 2022.
An additional day has been added to the usual October holiday so students will be off Oct. 11-12, for staff development days. Graduation will be May 27, 2022.