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Finances, Grad Plans Topics of Discussion for Trustees

Two items of particular discussion highlighted Monday night’s Van Alstyne ISD Board of Trustees meeting, those being the need for a future bond initiative and approval of a new graduation plan under Texas House Bill 5.

The bond issue stems from the needs of a growing school district, according to VAISD Superintendent Dr. John Spies.

The construction projects to be funded by the bond cover the elementary and high school campuses. At the elementary school level, six classrooms and a hallway are to be added along with the requisite sprinkler system for the new addition. At the high school, a cafeteria renovation, a re-do of the front of the high school for security reasons and the addition of six classrooms top the to-do list. These are all priority 1 projects.

“When you add all those up you come up with a little under six million dollar,” explained Spies.

Storm shelter additions (areas designed to withstand a Level 5 tornado) are to be added at both campuses with the high school shelter being done in two phases as part of priority 3 construction. It’s worth noting that the middle school was not included in this as it has no construction projects ongoing. According to Spies, the option at the middle school is to buy the metal storm shelters that would be brought in and sealed up against the walls of the school. At the high school, another six classrooms would be added in a second phase of construction.

At the lowest priority level would be a new 6,800 square foot administration building to be built just north of the middle school. Spies estimates in the coming years that the current administration staff – admittedly small in number - could double in size and the current building is unable to accommodate that growth.

“This is a pretty lean administrative staff,” said Spies.

The bond initiative, which Spies emphasized is estimated at this point to be at $6 million, is expected to be put to voters in May of 2015. Spies emphasized that this bond initiative will not increase taxes.

Texas House Bill 5 passed recently and laid out new graduation requirements and endorsements. The new plan left room for districts to customize their own graduation plans, and trustees approved VAISD’s graduation plan on Monday.

For students to graduate from VAHS they must gain credit in a set of core courses and qualify for at least one endorsement area, earning a minimum of 26 credits beginning in 2014-15. Core courses for the district include four credits of English/language arts, four credits of math including algebra II, four credits of science, three credits of social studies, two credits of language other than English, one credit each in fina arts, PE and technology. The district is requiring one more math credit, one more science credit and a technology credit. In addition, freshmen must take the school’s professional communications class.

In addition to these core courses, students must get endorsements in one of five areas: STEM (math, science and technology), Business and Industry, Arts and Humanities, Public Service and Multidisciplinary.

“Our plan passed what the state’s foundation plan is,” said Spies, who said he wants the district’s students to be as prepared as possible for college no matter what endorsement they may choose.

To help parents with the process, the district will host meetings with each eighth grade student and their parents in a marathon session on March 27 at Van Alstyne Middle School. Five staff members have been assigned to meet with those eighth grade families in sessions beginning at 7:30 a.m. and running through 7:30 p.m. Online meeting registration can be done at http://www.edlinesites.net/pages/Van_Alstyne_Middle_School under the “Parents” tab by selecting “Graduation Plan.”

DISTRICT NOTES: A donation of $10,000 for science and technology was made to the district…A pair of 14x40 buildings were donated to the baseball and softball teams to serve as locker rooms. Air conditioning, heat and electricity will be added once the buildings are fitted out. Work on these buildings is hoped to be finished in the next two weeks. Currently, neither team has a locker room at the ball fields.