During our September SISD Board of Trustees meeting, a workshop on our Transition 2020 Project was held to discuss some of the important decisions that are before us and a timeline for action that will best prepare us for the future. We are providing that same information to our parents and community members so that all stakeholders are informed about the important preparations that still must be made, and how and when to participate in any discussion or action.
Sherman ISD has been actively working on our Transition 2020 Project to achieve our district's transition goals:
- Upgrade classroom instructional technology and districtwide technology systems
- Design and build a new Sherman High School
- Expand enrollment capacity in grades 6-8 by opening a second middle school campus, Sherman Middle School
- Rezone our elementary schools into K-5 campuses
A workshop on the Transition 2020 Project was held to discuss some of the important decisions that are before us and a timeline for action that will best prepare us for tour transition. The following major topics were discussed as part of the Transition 2020 Project:
Opening the New Sherman High School
Until January, we maintained a path to open the new high school in August of 2020. As a result of the most recent rains that made January one of the wettest in our area’s history, and rain and freezing temperatures that continued in February, our construction manager has advised us that they will not be able to provide enough accessible space to open the new high school in August. Although this is disappointing, it is only a brief delay, and we will plan to open the new SHS in January of 2021.
Redesigning the Attendance Boundaries for Grades K-8
Returning to a K-5 elementary grade configuration and a 6-8 middle-grade configuration was strongly prioritized by our Building Bearcats Committee. Under this model, SISD elementary schools, including Dillingham, would serve grades K-5, and Piner and Sherman Middle School would serve grades 6-8. This instructional model has been used successfully in our district’s past and allows 5th graders to remain in an elementary setting for one additional year. It also reduces the number of school building transitions that our students make.
Transition 2020 K-8 Implementation Important Points
- Changes to grades K-8 attendance boundaries have been determined
- Implementation of boundary changes for elementary students (K-5) will not take place until the 2021-2022 school year.
- All 7th and 8th graders will attend Piner Middle School for the 2020-2021 school year.
- All 5th and 6th graders will attend Dillingham Intermediate for the 2020-2021 school year.
- Children entering grades K-4 will continue to attend their elementary campuses in 2020-2021.
- In August of 2021, Piner Middle School and the New Sherman Middle School will serve students in the 6-8 grades.
- In August of 2021, all elementary campuses will be K-5 and Dillingham will begin serving elementary students. The redesign of all elementary attendance boundaries will be fully implemented.
- In August of 2021, Jefferson Elementary will no longer be utilized as an elementary campus and all students will be zoned to the Dillingham campus.
This revised approach to rezoning means that any elementary boundary changes determined this fall will ultimately impact fewer of our current elementary students. It also gives staff, students, and parents an additional year to adjust to the boundary changes at elementary, the closing of Jefferson Elementary, and gives the fifth graders more space at a campus that will be all their own for one year.
Addressing Facility Needs at Middle School
Opening a second middle school is going to provide increased capacity for our growing enrollment in grades 6-8. It will also allow our district to strengthen our athletics, fine arts, and advanced academic programs by increasing the number of teams, performing groups, and sections of advanced academic classes. District staff will be identifying and prioritizing maintenance projects and facility upgrades for both middle school campuses. It is of the highest priority that we maintain equity among our core academic, athletic and fine arts programs. Because there was no additional funding for these projects included in the 2017 bond program, we will be making as many facility improvements as possible using our existing funds.
Possible projects that have already been identified include:
- Upgrading HVAC and Energy Management Systems (EMS)
- Painting building interiors including classrooms
- Replacing flooring in specific locations
- Addressing repairs throughout both campuses
- Completing the fire loop and interior driveline near the west gym at Sherman Middle School
- Replacing wheel chair lift at Piner Middle School
- Addressing gym and fine arts space at Piner Middle School
- Identifying facility space at Sherman Middle School that can be shared by all middle school students
Starting Full-Day Pre-K
The 86th Texas Legislature determined that Texas school districts will begin offering full-day Pre-K classes to all eligible 4-year-old students immediately. It has long been a strategic goal in our district to expand our Pre-K program, but our facility constraints at both Fred Douglass and most of our elementary schools have prevented us from achieving this goal. However, with the decision to make the current SHS a second middle school, we now have additional classroom space available. In order to accommodate a full-day Pre-K program by the 2021-2022 school year, we would take the following action:
- Renovate the “H” hall at the current Sherman High School to create a new dedicated space for Perrin Learning Center students. This dedicated and renovated environment would be “right-sized” for high school students. Because Perrin Learning Center serves high school students who seek scheduling flexibility while completing high school, the campus would have a separate, dedicated entrance and parking lot. PLC students would also not co-exist with Sherman Middle students at any time during the school day.
- Expand Pre-K and Head Start to Perrin with Fred Douglass and Perrin serving our early childhood students. This move would allow us to serve Pre-K students in a full-day program with two dedicated early childhood centers without seeking a bond election. It would also allow us to meet an additional priority of the Building Bearcats Committee: utilize Perrin in a manner that’s closest to its intended use and SHS (new Sherman Middle School) in an efficient manner that maximizes the facility’s use.
Beginning a Two-Tier Transportation System
In the fall of 2017, we began discussing making critically needed changes to our transportation routing system that would increase efficiency, save money, and greatly reduce wait times and route lengths. Many of our current routes mix secondary and elementary students and we have children arriving at school up to an hour early and staying after school up to an hour as well. Some of our routes are not completed until 5:45 in the evening.
Specific changes to our transportation system, including new start times for our schools, will be considered in the November-March time frame. Information will be shared in fall faculty meetings at each campus and a final determination will be made by late winter.
Staffing Sherman Middle, Piner Middle, and Dillingham Elementary
With any grade configuration change comes the opportunity for some staff at the affected campuses to move to a different grade level or campus. This fall, teachers at Piner and Dillingham were surveyed regarding their teaching certifications and grade level/subject preferences. To the greatest extent possible, employee preferences will be considered when making transfer decisions. In order to ensure the success and viability of both middle school campuses, it is important that we are deliberate in the staffing of each school. Making sure Piner Middle School and Sherman Middle School have the staff in place to be successful in academics, athletics, and fine arts is our top priority. We are focused on having experienced teachers, coaches, and lead teachers at both middle school campuses.