Students, campus, programs, staff all growing
By HARSHITA AVIRNENI
Four Points News
Vandegrift is now the biggest school in Leander ISD and as it kicks off the new school year with over 2,700 students and 214 staffers. Campus expansion will be the biggest change coming down the pike now that the bleachers have added thousands of more seats and the new jumbotron has been installed. Additionally implementing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program into the curriculum this year and adding about 40 new employees are other big changes at VHS.
“I am looking forward having more time to spend with the kids and figuring out ways to keep it feeling like a small campus even though we are growing,” said Charlie Little, principal at VHS. He has a freshman of his own at the school this year.
The school has started its planning phases for the expansion to the building to hold 500 more students. Construction should start sometime within the school year.
“The design is not done yet,” Little said. “We are still in the planning phases. I will be meeting with district staff and architects and we will be talking about the expansion. The bond just got passed six months ago (so) we will be talking about what that’s going to look like.”
The expansion will raise the building capacity from 2,400 to 2,900. The new building plans to have a robotics lab, more computer science labs and about 20 new classrooms for the growth.
VHS is the biggest high school in the district in terms of student population and with this expansion will be the biggest building as well.
“I am excited to see the growth in our programs because of the expansion,” Public Education Information Management System registrar Carla Kind said. “With the expansion it allows us to grow the INCubatoredu program, it allows to expand our robotics (program), it allows us to all be under one roof again so I am excited for it to be here. I wish it was done faster.”
Portable buildings at VHS have moved from the back of the school to the front.
“When we have to start some construction we knew we would have to move them eventually so we went ahead and moved them…. So they are going to temporarily be there until the construction for the expansion is done,” Little said.
Over the summer, the school began construction to add 5,000 bleachers at Ed W. Monroe Memorial Stadium, 3,000 on the home side and 2,000 on the visitor side.
“For the first home game, the home side will be done and expanded out, which will be great for the band and all the kids to have more space,” Little said. “The visitor side will be done after football season. That was originally intended to be done (before football season) but will be completed after.”
The new jumbotron was completed at Monroe and put into place a few weeks ago. According to Little, the sponsorships will pay off the jumbotron in seven years and after that the money coming in from the sponsorships will become income for the school district. So Little said even though the jumbotron may seem like an extravagance right now, in the long run it is a win for the school.
“The kids are going to be our biggest resource on what they want to see up there because it is really for the kids and the community,” Little said. “Fundraisers, programs, anything celebrating student of the week, those kinds of things that are normally in the Four Points we can also put on there live. I think it will benefit the students in ways where we can highlight them.”
In addition to these external changes, internally VHS is also facing major changes by implementing International Baccalaureate Diploma Program into the curriculum. This will be the first year for IB with juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
“Just trying to incorporate some of the IB philosophies into our curriculum will be great,” Little said.
The new 6A University Interscholastic League alignment will bring new competition.
Vandegrift, Leander and Vista Ridge will form District 13-6A, a nine-team district with all the schools from the Round Rock ISD and Hendrickson. The Vipers will begin the regular season with non-district football games against Cedar Park and Killeen Ellison before jumping right into district play in week 3.
Also about 40 new people have been added to VHS’ staff including two new assistant principals. Replacing last year’s assistant principals Mike Hasse and Kristen Pryor will be assistant principals Kenneth Debord and Amanda Toon.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of the Vandegrift community and culture,” Toon said. “It is a wonderful thing to feel a part of something bigger than yourself, especially when that something is so honorable and good. I think that every educator fundamentally wants to make a positive difference or impact on their students’ lives. That is the heart of why I do what I do.”