Sunday, December 16, 2018
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Sharyland-LogoThe Sharyland ISD Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing next Monday to discuss the possibility of receiving an exemption from the state to begin school a week earlier than state law requires.

The hearing, set for Monday, Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the Sharyland High School auditorium, will be followed by a regular school board meeting where the board will be asked to appoint a committee to put a plan in place for the district to be designated as a District of Innovation.

The District of Innovation designation was created by the Texas Legislature in 2015 to give independent school districts some of the flexibility that charters schools have under state law, according to the Texas Education Agency website.

While becoming a district of innovation can allow for numerous exemptions ranging from class sizes to teacher certification requirements, the district is seeking to only ask for one exemption from the state.

“Under state law, school is supposed to start no earlier than the fourth Monday in August,” Pam Montalvo, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said. “Under this exemption the district will be able to start school one week earlier.”

The proposed change will positively affect students in the fall semester, Montalvo said.

She explained that while students across the district have 95 days of instruction during the second semester of school, students only have 79 days in the first semester.

“So we have a huge discrepancy in the number of instructional days children have, especially once they take their end of course exams in December,” Montalvo said. “Our goal is to give the students more instructional time to better prepare them for their December exams. Those extra five days will count a lot for that.”

While Montalvo said she wasn’t sure by when the committee would present a plan for a District of Innovation to the board, she did say if approved, the exemption would go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year.

The exemption would only be for five years, meaning the district will have to revisit the District of Innovation in 2024 to decide if they need the designation again.

“I think there will be support for this exemption in the district,” Montalvo said. “Both of our high school principals agree that this will give more instructional time for students especially since they must pass five end-of-course exams to graduate. This would better prepare them for studying.”

Despite the proposed new start date for the district, Montalvo said the new designation would not affect the last day of school.

If approved at an upcoming board meeting, Sharyland ISD would become the second school district in western Hidalgo County designated as a District of Innovation following La Joya ISD.