Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Sharyland-LogoThe 2019-2020 school year will officially start one week earlier than usual for students in the Sharyland school district.

During Monday’s school board meeting, trustees approved a plan for the district to receive a District of Innovation designation to exempt them from starting school in the fourth week of August as state law requires.

“It’s a great benefit for our students as they will now have instructional time in the fall,” Carolyn Mendiola, the district’s assistant superintendent for student services and community relations. “Five more days of instruction will make all the difference for students."

With this designation, the following school year will begin Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, the third Monday in August.

The district announced their intentions to receive this designation last November after noticing 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 due to all the holiday breaks in that semester.

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 sought ought to only ask for one exemption from the state.

“Now all we need to do is inform the TEA of our exemption,” Montalvo said.

At Monday’s meeting, the board also approved the implementation of a TEA-approved General Employability Life Skills Course designed for the district’s special needs students.

According to Montalvo, the state-accredited course will teach juniors and seniors across the district’s high schools “soft skills” such as grooming, proper attire, greeting and more.

“These students struggle sometimes to find employment when they graduate so through this course they will learn life skills typically found for a job in customer service,” Montalvo said, adding that the district will begin implementing the course effective immediately.

“It’s a great opportunity for students. Some of them are taking courses on construction, welding and other technical programs so with these courses our students will learn the soft skills that will benefit in the long run.”

Montalvo said that at least seven students in each of the district’s two high schools will take the course and that the McAllen and Edinburg school districts have similar programs.