By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
Representatives from Leander ISD and the Four Points community met with parents in the Canyon Ridge Middle School on Jan. 28 to offer updates on ongoing traffic and school projects. The Community Workshop event was sponsored by the Vandegrift High School PTA Ladder.
Speakers covered a range of topics, including Four Points traffic, the proposed alternative road to VHS, possible transfers for Steiner students to Four Points Middle School, school technology initiatives and the new TEKS or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
VHS/FPMS alternate road status
LISD School Board President and and founder of the Four Points Traffic Committee Pam Waggoner spoke first. She informed parents of the current status of efforts to open a paved road on the Balcones National Canyonlands behind Four Points Middle School and VHS.
The intent of the proposed road is to provide an alternate route for parents, students and apartment residents who visit the area daily but also as secondary access for emergency vehicles.
“The road behind Vandegrift is already a corridor, it’s already been mitigated,” said Waggoner. The existing corridor, however, has caused additional species to be added to the endangered or watched list.
In response to concerns about these species, the Four Points Traffic Committee filed a Habitat Conservation Plan in November 2014 on behalf of LISD with the U.S. Department of Fish and WIldlife. They received an answer January 7.
“It’s not great news but it is news. They’ve come back and they haven’t thrown it out, so that’s the good news,” Waggoner said.
“The second part of that is they’ve asked several clarifying questions… absolutely expected… about the mitigation features — what’s the long term plan,” she said.
Waggoner went on to explain that they expect a period of back and forth with Fish and Wildlife before the department then opens the issue to public comment. At that time, Four Points residents will have 60 days to share their thoughts about the road. Waggoner encouraged the community to take full advantage of that opportunity, the dates of which will be announced as soon as they are known.
Voluntary transfers from CRMS to FPMS
Due to the rapid growth of Steiner Ranch, CRMS current student enrollment is nearly twice that of FPMS.
Veronica Sopher, LISD assistant superintendent of community and government relations, explained that parents in Steiner Ranch have reached out to LISD requesting that the option for students to transfer to FPMS be explored.
The district will offer a survey through the PTAs of some or all Steiner elementary schools, to be sent out in the next couple of weeks.
Intended to gauge interest among parents, LISD needs to know not only if families wish to transfer to FPMS but if they would also be willing to potentially help to shoulder the associated fiscal costs.
A new bus costs LISD $150,000 and a driver $50,000.
LISD Superintendent Bret Champion was quick to add that the survey is in no way, “a guarantee that this will happen.” The survey is only meant as one step in exploring options intended to help manage the long-term growth of Four Points schools.
Sarah Martinez, LISD senior director for information technology services, decision support, and Scott Monroe, executive director for IT services, spoke to parents about the district’s newest technology initiative.
As Monroe explained, “Back in 2007, the voters approved technology really for the first time… so we were able to put four to five computers in each classroom.”
Those machines are now sorely outdated. So last year the district launched a new technology initiative, meant to update equipment but also expectations of how technology can best serve the educational needs of LISD students.
“We’ve decided to move from more of a campus-based approach to more of a classroom-based approach,” said Martinez. This means schools will depart from the computer lab model and instead use a combination of Chromebooks, iPads, laptops and desktops in classrooms.
She added that, “At this point,with the funding we have available, we’re at about a three (students)-to-one(device) ratio.”
Additionally, the district is rolling out a new program that would allow students to check out and bring home devices owned by LISD. This program is not yet available in any Four Points area schools.
Chairman of the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association Brian Thompto presented new information about potential changes to area roads and intersections.
Thompto explained that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which is responsible for regional traffic planning for Travis County and others, has recognized the need to address overloaded roadways in Four Points.
To that end, several projects are currently under consideration:
- A dual left turn lane onto McNeil Drive
- Widening of 620 and 2222 to six lanes around the Four Points intersection
- Rerouting the Four Points intersection
All of these projects are part of a larger picture intended to address long-term traffic needs versus providing temporary, stop-gap measures.
Thompto also encouraged residents to call 311 to report any traffic light or road issues they encounter while driving in Four Points.
Graduation requirement changes
Superintendent Bret Champion and his staff were also on hand to remind parents of new graduation plans passed by the Texas legislature in 2013.
The intention of lawmakers was to reduce graduation requirements for students wishing to pursue a vocational path after high school instead of attending college.
The state defined three new paths to graduation. In response, LISD created their own custom, more rigorous fourth path to graduation.
The Four Points news previously covered the updates. Readers can find the article by visiting www.fourpointsnews.com, and viewing the April 16 issue in our 2014 archives.