(ROCKWALL, TX — Nov. 20, 2019) During the Rockwall Chamber of Commerce Partnership Luncheon last week, Rockwall ISD Superintendent Dr. John Villarreal provided some highlights for the district from 2019. Here’s a look at what’s been happening around the district this past year, and where its headed in 2020 and beyond.
Pathways to Success
The district more than doubled student enrollment in its Elementary Math Pathways program, with 1,400 kids currently enrolled in the program. With the On-Level, Compacted and Advanced Pathways, the program aims to make learning relevant, authentic and challenging for students beginning in the 5th grade.
The three pathways are geared toward different skill levels in math. For instance, 12th grade students on the On-Level Pathway will have the opportunity to take a variety of year three and year four math classes, which will enable them to graduate with an endorsement and prepare them for college and a career. High school seniors on the Compacted Pathway can take college credit courses such as AP Statistics and IB Math, while students on the Advanced Pathway can begin taking college credit courses in their junior year.
Stars of the District
This year, the Rockwall ISD school board was one of five school boards in the state to be selected as an Honor School Board by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) School Boards Awards program. Each year, the program recognizes outstanding Texas school boards for commitment and service that has made a positive impact on Texas public school students.
Seventeen Rockwall ISD students received National Merit honors, becoming among the top five percent throughout the nation recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Additionally, 10 of those students are among the top five percent who were selected as Hispanic Scholars. The National Hispanic Recognition Program, established in 1983, is a College Board program that provides national recognition of the exceptional academic achievement of Hispanic high school seniors and identifies them for post-secondary institutions.
In the spring 2019, the Rockwall ISD Culinary Arts team took first place among 46 teams in the National ProStart Culinary competition. The competition is comprised of two divisions: restaurant management and cooking. For their restaurant management challenge, the team had to create a three-course meal within 60 minutes, not using any electrical equipment. They had to make everything by hand, with only two portable butane burners to do it all. For the cooking challenge, the team was tasked with creating two identical five-star meals, one for the judges and one to display, as well as a recipe booklet. They were judged on their knife skills and teamwork by a team of 10-15 judges, who roamed around the kitchen throughout the challenge.
Building a Brighter Future
Rockwall ISD made great strides towards its 2015 bond projects within the past year, completing more than $200 million worth of projects. The district welcomed a newly-constructed Howard Dobbs Elementary School. The new two-story school is approximately 93,000 square feet and designed for a capacity of 765 students. Reinhardt Elementary saw a rebuild of its school building after suffering damage from a tornado. Reinhardt students and staff temporarily relocated to the old Dobbs Elementary school building for a year while the rebuild was being completed. The new 88,000-square foot facility -which has the capacity to hold 580 students – opened its doors in time for the fall semester this year. Amy Parks-Heath Elementary School underwent remodels to its library and cafeteria, along with new art rooms and administrative offices.
In October, Rockwall ISD broke ground on the new Elementary School 15. The design for the school building consists of spaces and classrooms in a proven arrangement utilizing natural light, durable materials and vibrant colors to inspire learning. The new school is located at 2911 Greenway Drive and is expected to open in August 2020. The district recently held a community meeting inviting folks to come give their input on zoning for Elementary School 15. The school board will take action on zoning approval at its meeting on Dec. 16.
Meeting Future Enrollment Growth
In 2018, Rockwall ISD began looking at the future student enrollment growth of the district. Currently, there are 16,578 total students enrolled in the district. At the current growth rate, that number is expected to reach nearly 18,000 in five years. By 2028/29, Rockwall ISD may enroll nearly 19,700 total students, with Maurine Cain Middle School and both high schools exceeding their stated building capacities. Next year, three Rockwall ISD elementary schools are also expected to exceed their capacities at the current growth rate.
The Rockwall ISD school board held a workshop on Nov. 4 to discuss long range planning strategies to accommodate the incoming enrollment growth of the district. During a meeting on Nov. 18, the school board unanimously approved the formation of a 2020 Bond Planning Committee comprised of parents, staff and community members for the collaborative development of recommendations to meet continued and future enrollment growth.
“I went back and looked at some old demographer reports and the growth they were projecting then, and we grew faster than what we thought in some areas,” said Rockwall ISD School Board Vice President Russ Childers. “People want to come to Rockwall, and I think it’s good. I think it’s tough on us because we have to plan so much for it, but it’s a good thing.”
By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photos courtesy of Rockwall ISD.
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