Parents hear elementary change plans

The idea of converting Noel and Pease elementary schools into lower grade and upper elementary level campuses was brought to parents at Noel Elementary Monday.

About 20 parents attended the gathering in Noel’s school library. Another component of the rezoning plan would pair Zavala and Travis elementary with one becoming a prekindergarten through first or second grade campus and the other focusing on the upper elementary grades.

The Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees will consider boundary changes for elementary and middle schools and the reconfigurations at its meeting set for 6 p.m. today at the administration building, 802 N. Sam Houston Ave.

The plan would meet the state’s requirements for repurposing schools that are in their fifth year of improvement required status under state accountability ratings while focusing on early childhood literacy with more prekindergarten spots available. Officials have said early childhood literacy is an area of weakness.

Ector County Independent School District has eight campuses on improvement required status. Ector Middle School, Noel and Zavala elementary schools are in their fifth year. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.

Crowe has met with parents from Travis and Pease and planned to meet with parents from Zavala later on Monday. Pease would be prekindergarten through second grade and Noel would be for grades three to five.

Pease has more classrooms available than Noel, so students wouldn’t have to go to portable buildings.

“We think this will really benefit our kids,” Crowe said.

He added that Noel Principal Stacy Johnson and Pease Principal Autumn Sloan discussed the idea even before it was brought up by administration.

If parents have children in different grade levels, there will be a shuttle available between the campuses and starting times will be staggered so parents will be able to deliver their children on time. Crowe said start times will be adjusted, depending on how this works.

Pease is in its third year of IR and Travis has met standard.

Crowe said Zavala would be prekindergarten through first grade or second grade and Travis would be second grade through fifth grade or three through five. Crowe isn’t sure yet what grades would be where because he said if the schools don’t get out of IR, they have to have 75 percent new students.

After the first year, Pease would be prekindergarten through second grade and Noel would be three through five.

Although “in our hearts” we know the schools will get off of improvement required, Crowe said the district has to act proactively. Officials won’t know if they will come off the list until June. And trying to take corrective action before school starts wouldn’t be enough time, he added.

Crowe said he has heard from several principals who say running an elementary school is like running two campuses, because some principals have expertise in early childhood and others may know more about grades two or three through five.

Crowe said there is an academic advantage to reconfiguring the campuses this way and it prevents a state takeover.

“You don’t want to give up local control,” he said.

Johnson said looking at data from Noel and Pease, the students perform at the same level and both are projected to get out of IR. She added that Sloan has experience in early childhood education and the kindergarten through second grade at Noel has been struggling to put that foundation in place.

Officials have said that the services a child receives will follow them from campus to campus.

Johnson said she would still be involved with all the students and the students would see familiar teachers and students at their new school, if they have to move.

Crowe has said incoming fifth-graders and eighth-graders would be able to stay at their campuses.

With a prekindergarten through second grade campus, Crowe said staff development can focus on early childhood literacy.

He said the schools will not be renamed and class sizes will remain the same.

Currently, Crowe said there are few if any prekindergarten classes on the north side. In this scenario, the district will open four pre-k classes — two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

Prekindergarten is half day. Crowe said this would give 88 more students a chance at prekindergarten.

He said students who attend prekindergarten rather than daycares in town do better in school. Plans are to invite daycare providers to ECISD training because it will pay off in the long run.

Both campuses have Camp Fire as an after-school program and that will continue, Crowe said. The older students would come to the younger sibling’s campus.

Sherrie Posey, who attended Monday’s meeting, has a student attending Noel. She attended Noel as a youngster and loves the school.

“I don’t necessarily feel a lot better just because my daughter doesn’t like change and she’s going to be going into second grade, so I hate that she’s having to move for just one year and then she’ll come back. Noel and the staff here is wonderful. She’s used to them. They’ve worked really well with her, so I hate that she’s going to have to move for just one year,” Posey said.

She added that she’s still not sure why prekindergarten is being added if the campus is already IR.

“I think they need to be focusing on k through five as it is, but I guess we can always use more preschool schools. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I can see why they would want to act proactively before it’s out of their hands, so I can see why they’re doing it. I just hope like it said it doesn’t cause too much disruption and there’s a lot of chaos and confusion,” Posey said.

She added that her daughter had substitute teachers the first half of the year, so she knows there’s a teacher shortage.

Elma Santos, who has a prekindergarten student at Noel, said the idea of the reconfiguration is good because teachers will be able to focus more on the younger children.

With more prekindergarten spots available, Crowe said teachers would be trained and more would be recruited.

He said parents have been pretty calm about the idea of the change and see the logic behind it. Crowe added that he thinks parents are nervous about the idea, because it’s different but they can’t argue against the logic of it.

“They don’t want the state coming in taking over the district. … I think they kind of like the idea of the early childhood type setting where the pre-k through two are all together, where it can be focused on early literacy because that’s one of our challenges is early literacy,” Crowe said.

If You Go
  • What: ECISD Board of Trustees meeting.
  • When: 6 p.m. today.
  • Where: Board room of the administration building at 802 N. Sam Houston Ave.
  • Agenda: Trustees will consider boundary changes, the reconfigurations for elementary and middle schools and several other items.
School Populations:
  • Noel: 534.
  • Pease: 644.
  • Travis: 354.
  • Zavala: 506.
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