The Leander ISD Board of Trustees approved a study to consider becoming a District of Innovation at its Nov. 16 meeting for flexibility in creating their academic calendar for 2018-19.
A District of Innovation (DOI) is a state program that allows school districts the same abilities as open enrollment charter schools. This includes flexibility with class size ratio, teacher contracts, or flexibility in creating academic calendars, said Dan Troxell, LISD superintendent.
Many families in the district have raised concerns about the academic calendar ending on June 8, Troxell said. Some have said the June dates interfere with family vacations, enrolling in ACC courses and high school remediation courses, among other issues.
Meanwhile, some neighboring districts — such as Austin ISD — are able to finish school by Memorial Day due to their DOI status. Because of standard state restrictions, districts cannot start their school year before the fourth Monday in August.
Troxell and the trustees said they wanted to limit the DOI study parameters strictly to calendar flexibility.
“Local control on the calendar makes sense, as long as districts don’t abuse the power and push the start date of the school year into late August,” Troxell said. “We are looking at options that may push the start date back a week to give us flexibility in June.”
The other alternative to adjusting the calendar without attaining DOI status could be adding minutes to the school day, said Board President Pamela Waggoner.
“You can absolutely reduce the number of days at the end of the school year by counting minutes, and it doesn’t require a DOI, but you lose instructional time,” Troxell said.
With the resolution approved at the Nov. 16 meeting, the Board will hold a public hearing Dec. 7, where the Board will decide whether to create a state-required DOI committee of teachers, instructional staff, parents and community members.
However, the decision to approve the study doesn’t mean the district will ultimately decide to adopt a DOI, Waggoner said.
“I want to make sure we have maximum exposure to the public and collect maximum feedback from the public prior to us adopting it and then saying, ‘Hey we just did this,’” said Jim MacKay, place 5 board member.
If the Board decides to move forward with the committee at their Dec. 7 meeting, the study will begin on Dec. 16. The DOI Plan will then be sent to the Commissioner of Education on Jan. 12 and be available to the public online for 30 days.
In mid February, the Board will hold a public hearing and vote on adopting the DOI on Feb. 15, according to meeting documents.
At least 651 districts have become Districts of Innovation since 2015, according to the district.