Friday, February 28, 2020
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Sharyland-LogoThe Sharyland ISD Board of Trustees voted to have one of their own committees look into the possibility of receiving an exemption from the state to begin school earlier than state law requires.

At their Monday meeting, school board trustees held a hearing to discuss the benefits of receiving a District of Innovation designation.

The District of Innovation designation was created by the Texas Legislature in 2015 as a way 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. “For the last several years we’ve actually lost days of school because the fourth Monday of August is the last week of the month. Under this exemption the district will be able to start earlier.”

Montalvo, who led the hearing, recommended to the board that they appoint Sharyland’s District Educational Improvement Committee to formulate a plan to present to the board about the viability of receiving the District of Innovation Designation.

The DEIC is made up of 65 district representatives such as teachers, administrators and community members. They are the group in charge of reviewing district educational goals, Montalvo said.

The proposed change in the start of the school year 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 students more instructional time to better prepare them for their December exams. Those extra five days will count a lot for that.”

The DEIC will meet next Monday to begin the planning process, Montalvo said.

“Once that plan goes through the DEIC we will share it with our campuses who will review it before we send it to the board for approval in January,” Montalvo said.

If approved, the exemption would go into effect for the next 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.

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

“This change [early school start] is the only exemption we are looking for, “Montalvo said. “While schools can receive exemptions on class sizes and qualifications of teachers they need, every district is different and have different needs.”