RISD School Times — December 6, 2018

National Merit Semifinalists

Congratulations to RISD’s national merit semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program. These seniors were named semifinalists after scoring among the highest one percent of students nationally on the 2017 PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test as juniors. They now have the opportunity to continue in the competition for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring. Jacob Abel, Pearce HS Sophie Cope, Pearce HS Emma Dawson, Pearce HS Alexander DeJong, Richardson HS Jesse DeJong, Richardson HS Erin Halligan, Pearce HS Olivia Hughes, Richardson HS Katherine Mulry, Pearce HS

Lake Highlands Teachers Honored

Lake Highlands High School teachers John Moore, Jacquelyn Pendarves and David Wood were recognized this week and awarded honorary “Doctorates of Experience” for their collective 112 years of teaching students in the Lake Highlands community.

Board Meeting Summary — December 3
The RISD Board met for a regular meeting the evening of December 3, discussing several topics. Highlights included:

LHHS Construction Update
The Board approved a guaranteed maximum price for phase 1 of the Lake Highlands HS expansion project and bond-related work of $15.9 million.

Following the Program Planning Committee process (which included parents/community members, students, staff members and community meetings), the programming identified by the committee has now been designed by architects and is ready to be bid in three phases. The total project budget is $61,045,279.00. The first phase would be the Multi-Purpose Activity Center, moving a fire lane, and utility work. Phase two would be a connector of the two buildings, the new cafeteria, new library and mechanical/electrical systems, and is due to bid in March 2019. Phase three will include new classrooms, mechanical/electrical systems and a storm shelter. Phase three is set to bid in August 2019. Due to the complexity of the design, construction phases are needed to ensure all aspects of campus operations will continue to function as efficiently as possible throughout the construction period.

The scope of the project increased as a result of the Program Planning Committee work, increasing the overall cost of the project by approximately $12.6 million. The storm shelter, which was not required in City code when the project cost was originally estimated in 2014–15, will cost $5.9 million and also be usable as instructional and athletic training space. The other major increases to the original scope is a connector between the two existing buildings (currently, students walk outdoors across a parking lot to travel to classes between buildings), and a central cafeteria that can accommodate all students. The existing cafeteria will be converted into classrooms in phase 2.

The additional cost would come from three sources — funds in the 2016 bond allocated for Lake Highlands enrollment growth, proceeds from the sale of the district property on White Rock Trail, and interest earnings from bond funds.

Learn more about the LHHS Program Planning Committee

Transportation & Bus Driver Compensation
The Board received an update on the expansion of the RISD Transportation Department that resulted from the dissolution of long-time student transportation provider Dallas County Schools. Last fall, RISD evaluated bids from third-party transportation providers and determined that bringing student transportation in-house was the most cost-effective course that also provided the district with the most flexibility and control over bus operations.

As a result, the RISD Transportation Department has grown from five employees to 219, with most of the growth being bus driver positions. Like most school districts, RISD faced challenges building a team of bus drivers, and is continuing to seek additional drivers (currently 16 drivers short). The district has implemented a commercial driver’s license training program to develop drivers who will commit to staying in the district.

The regional bus driver shortage has resulted in neighboring Dallas ISD (RISD’s primary competition for drivers) to become much more aggressive related to bus driver compensation, and as a result, the Transportation Department requested funds from the Board to increase the starting rate of RISD drivers by $3/hour in order to remain competitive and retain current drivers. The increase equates to an operating budget increase of $442,485, which after discussion the board voted to approve through a budget amendment.

See the transportation presentation

Pre-Kindergarten Program Expansion
A recommendation from RISD’s 2017–18 strategic planning process was for the district to consider expansion of pre-Kindergarten services in an effort to better prepare students for academic success. Trustees heard an initial presentation about the potential expansion of RISD pre-K offerings from the current half-day program to a full day program. Highlights included:

  • National research and RISD data demonstrate that quality Pre-K programming substantially impacts a student’s ability to read on grade level by the critical third grade point of academic development.
  • RISD currently has 19 campuses that offer half day Pre-K programming and is currently piloting one full-day classroom each at Forest Lane and Thurgood Marshall.
  • Currently, Pre-K is available to RISD families that qualify based on income level, home language, military dependency, foster care and/or homeless. There are more families that qualify than RISD has been able to service.
  • The recently completed campus-capacity study has helped RISD identify schools and facilities that can be utilized as part of a Pre-K expansion pilot program.
  • RISD has opportunities to partner with organizations that prioritize Pre-K as a way to offset the cost of adding pre-K classrooms in the district.
  • The district could phase in Pre-K expansion over the next three years, with an eventual goal of being able to offer full-day pre-Kindergarten programming to all families within RISD, starting at age 3.

For 2019–20, RISD could open two separate Early Childhood Schools utilizing existing facilities at Dobie Primary and the Skyview Annex. The Dobie location would begin piloting a full-day tuition-based offering for families who don’t otherwise qualify for Pre-K services. The district could also expand half-day Pre-K programming at other schools currently not offering the services.

The operating cost of implementing Pre-K expansion for 2019–20 is projected to be $437,396. Trustees discussed the possibility as an information item and will consider the proposal among other potential expenditures as part of the planning process for the 2019–20 operating budget.

See the Pre-K expansion presentation

Learn more about the December 3 Board meeting, including video

Click to see who was surprised at their school with Super Teacher recognition for this grading period!

Join Us This Holiday Season
Student Fine Arts groups across the district have a busy schedule over the next month. Check out the December Fine Arts calendar and come enjoy a concert or performance as we enter the holiday season.

Have a Question About RISD?
We’re glad you asked!

From time to time, students, parents, residents or taxpayers have questions about information or issues related to RISD, but aren’t sure who to ask or where to go for information. We’re Glad You Asked is a feature on the RISD website that lets stakeholders ask questions about anything related to RISD, and you’ll receive an emailed response from the appropriate RISD staff member. Some questions & answers may be featured in district publications.

Simply visit risd.org/gladyouasked to use this feature.

400 S. Greenville Ave. | Richardson, TX 75081 US

Originally published at t.e2ma.net.

RISD School Times — December 6, 2018 was originally published in Richardson ISD Newsdesk on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.