District weighs in on grade levels at new high school

Debate over which grade levels will start out at the district’s new third high school hit the Hays CISD board of trustee dais Tuesday.

While a decision won’t be made until Oct. 23, district leaders weighed in on what grades they want to see in the new school, which is currently under construction.

Carter Scherff, Hays CISD chief operations officer, said he felt the school should open with only freshman and sophomores. “If we open this facility and are overcrowded at the middle school level, then we possibly can open for 8th, 9th, and 10th like we did when we opened Lehman,” Scherff said.

Yarda Leflet, Hays CISD executive director of learning and teaching, shared these concerns, but also noted the potential disruption to students’ academic prospects if the high school opened for grades 9 though 12.

Leflet held concerns that with opening a new school with all four grade levels is subjecting students to new graduation plans currently in place. She said each student is to graduate with an endorsement, or specialized coursework they complete during their four years.

Hays CISD offers five endorsements which include Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), Business and Industry, Arts and Humanities, Public Service and Multi-disciplinary studies. “Trying to complete juniors and seniors on their endorsement plans would be a struggle for us programmatically and staffing wise, I would not want students to change endorsement their junior year and go back and take two additional credits to have to change an endorsement to something else,” Leflet said.

She added the variety of choices available to students through the endorsement programs would also create a scheduling conflict among staff.

“We could be in a situation in staffing where we would be staffing one teacher to fill a period for two kids; because the courses are so specialized, we would not necessarily be able to stack courses two or three on top of each other,” said Leflet.

Many school board trustees agreed with district staff on only housing freshman and sophomores at the new high school.

Merideth Keller, Hays CISD board president, did not advocate for adding 8th grade to the mix.Director of Student Programs, said opening the school for two grades initially may help keep schools within the 6A classification.

“The UIL (University Interscholastic League) will take a minimum of 220 schools into the 6A classification,” said Russel, “If we preserve current high schools at three grades and open the new high school at two grades we’ll keep the 6A classification.”

The districts’ third comprehensive high school was approved by voters in the May 2017 bond election and construction began on the campus in June 2017.

According to the school district’s website, the campus will have a capacity of 2,250 students and eventually serve grades 9 – 12 while offering “state-of-the-art” educational opportunities.

The 413,500 square-foot campus is expected to open in August 2019 and the project cost estimate is  $122,000,000 with $103,375,000 allocated for construction.

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