Growth at Cleveland ISD continues by leaps and bounds. Over the summer, the district picked up another 747 students and more are expected by Labor Day, when enrollment tends to slow down each year.
That puts the current enrollment at Cleveland ISD at 6,200 students, a 10 percent increase over the highest number from last year of 5,697 students and a 25 percent increase over the highest number of students – 4,975 – from the 2016-17 school year.
“We planned on a 12 percent growth, but believe it or not, we are short some teachers now. I don’t know how you plan for growth like this,” Superintendent Dr. Darrell Myers said to district employees at an early morning breakfast and convocation on Friday, Aug. 10.
Based on roughly 25 students per class, the figure of 747 students is equivalent to 30 additional classrooms.
“I’ve always [worked at school districts] where we hoped for 100 extra kids, not necessarily 747, particularly when we are still 2-3 weeks out from Labor Day,” Myers said. “We will get through it and do what we have to do to educate kids. We might be a little cramped and might have to make a few adjustments, but we’ll get through it.”
Myers asked the teachers, aides and support staff to not lose sight of the district’s vision, which is to have students prepared so that when they graduate school, they have choices such as a higher learning institution, military service or the workforce.
Whatever graduates choose to do, they must be ready to develop into successful adults.
“Our vision statement is different from our mission. That’s simple, too. Our mission is to do what’s right for the kids. We do what’s right for the kids, then we will meet that vision. If we do what is right for kids, then we are going to meet the goals we have for academics and extracurricular activities,” Myers said.
District employees should take pride in knowing that despite rapid growth and hard, never-ending adjustments, academic tests show Cleveland is still meeting its educational goals, he added.
“Our academic scores are going in the right direction and we are still maintaining even though we are getting hundreds of new students per year,” he said. “Feel good about what we are doing here. We are ahead of most of the school districts in Texas. I would say that we are 75 percent ahead of the school districts in Texas.”
CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS BEGINNING AND ENDING
When teachers return to Cleveland Middle School and Eastside School in the coming week, some will find their classrooms are still under construction and may not be ready for another couple of weeks or so.
“The contractors are trying to work their way out of the building right now. Some of you aren’t going to be in your classroom right away. Some of you won’t be getting into your classroom until the Friday before school starts and some of you might be working in the library or somewhere else until we get your room, but that’s part of having to be flexible in the situation we are in,” Myers said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. The best thing we can do is stay out of [the contractor’s] way.”
An open house is being planned for Aug. 23 for the public and parents to have a look at the expansion projects at the middle school and Eastside. The time has not been announced.
While those projects are wrapping up, others are either already under way or set to begin soon. Over the summer, the district broke ground on a new service center on FM 1010 that will house the bus barn and auxiliary services, and provide storage space for food services.
Concrete foundations are being poured now and steel erection should begin in late August. It is projected to be complete by August 2019.
Drawings for the new elementary school in Plum Grove are around 95 percent complete and the district is going out for construction bids in September. Because of the rising cost of steel, the price for constructing the new elementary and expanding the high school will exceed the amount originally set aside for the project.
“Construction has gone up about 20 percent over the last year. A large part of that goes to tariffs. It’s driving up the cost of our buildings,” Myers said.
Expanding the high school, basically doubling the space by adding on another wing, is going to cost $7 million more than the original budget because of tariffs.
“We are to the point right now that we’ve gotten it whittled down about as low as it can go,” he said. “We have it down to $3 million over. The board will be taking a look at that on Aug. 20 at the regular meeting.”
Myers also updated district employees on the status of the bleacher replacement at the high school stadium, for which the district saved money for four years.
“We are going to have to move our second scrimmage to another site because of the press box. It won’t be ready for a few more days,” he said.
Over the summer, Cleveland ISD’s board of trustees voted to purchase the old Campbell Ready-Mix offices on Boothe Street next to Cleveland Fire Department’s main station. Myers said the purchase was a windfall for the district because it cost $35 a square foot whereas new construction at the high school is estimated at $275 a square foot.
The 17,000-square-foot building will be used for the administration office, freeing up the current office near Southside for additional classroom space.
“That Southside building lends itself to an early childhood development center,” he said.
The new office needs some minor updating such as new flooring, paint and electrical system.
SALARY INCREASES PREDICTED FOR NEXT YEAR
If the preliminary budget for the next year goes as planned, Myers said district employees can expect modest raises. Contractual employees will see a bump of 2 percent while non-contractual employees will see a 4 percent increase.
“The raise is based on the midpoint of your salary,” Myers told the district employees.
He closed by reminding them of the importance of their duties as educators and support staff.
“It’s going to be a great year. Kids are going to show up here. Some are going to be reluctant learners. But you have an opportunity to affect those kids’ lives,” he said.
By Vanesa Brashier, email@example.com