District of Innovation, redistricting and more important news from Georgetown ISD in 2016

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The GISD board of trustees next meeting is set for Jan. 17.
The GISD board of trustees next meeting is set for Jan. 17.

The Georgetown ISD board of trustees kept busy in 2016. Take a look back at some of the big decisions made in 2016 and what is coming in 2017.

A question for Suzanne Marchman, GISD executive director of school-community engagement and communications:

Q:With the legislative session coming up, is there any worry that the state will do away with District of Innovation status?

A: We are going to keep going with it until we are told otherwise. We realize that the school start date is a contentious exemption for some people, and it’s possible that the Legislature will remove that as an option. But [the DOI] committee has [created this plan] that they believe is good for Georgetown and they are going to forge ahead, and if the Legislature makes changes, then we will deal with that.

Big decisions made in 2016:

  • District of Innovation status

In July, the board of trustees unanimously agreed to become a District of Innovation. A Texas law allows school districts to adopt a local innovation plan that outlines more flexible operating models, including some exemptions from state regulations previously offered only to charter schools. Districts with a DOI designation can avoid requirements, such as class-size ratios, teacher certifications and some student discipline provisions. In December, a special committee created a plan that will go before the board this year.

  • Rezoning of school boundaries

At its Dec. 12 meeting, the board was presented a first draft of a redistricting plan. The construction of Wagner Middle School, the combination of Williams and Purl elementaries, and the continued growth in the Georgetown area have led to the need for rezoning. Bryan Hallmark, assistant superintendent of operations and school leadership, said school boundaries would need to be revisited every three to four years to keep up with growth.

  • Bond project updates

Several projects from the $160.6 million voter-approved bond are underway or completed within the district. Wagner Middle School as well as Purl Elementary School, which combines Williams Elementary School and Purl, will open in 2017. Renovations to Tippit Middle School are underway and will go through 2019, according to the district.

Top issues for 2017:

  • GHS renovations

Renovations to Georgetown High School begin in January. Using funds from the bond election, the career technical education wing, the fine arts wing and other projects will be under renovation. In 2016, the high school’s athletic field also received new turf as part of the bond election.

  • Accommodating growth

In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau named the city of Georgetown the fastest-growing U.S. city of more than 50,000 people, and the area’s population continues to grow. Marchman said the district in the next year and beyond will focus on ways to accommodate anticipated growth.

  • Legislative session

In early 2017, the Texas Education Agency began releasing letter grade ratings for each school district based on STAAR testing results. More information is to come when the TEA releases a provisional set of accountability ratings for school districts and campuses across the state by Jan. 6.

For more information about the Georgetown ISD board of trustees visit its website.