Even before many students had awoken to don brand-new outfits and grab a quick breakfast, buses lined up in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday at the Spring ISD Transportation Center – ready to embark on their routes and deliver students safely to campuses for the first day of school.
“We are extremely optimistic about this school year for all of our students and families, and we have been busy preparing for this day – from our teachers, to our custodial staff, to our bus drivers,” said Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson, who started his morning at the Transportation Center. “Our goal is to make sure all of our students have all the support and resources they need to learn and grow this year.”
Dr. Watson spent the rest of the day touring schools and greeting students, parents and staff. He said he was elated to have students returning to classrooms in person across the district, and that as of Aug. 16, Spring ISD will be requiring all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks in district schools and facilities – regardless of vaccination status.
“Based on what happened all across the country last year with where kids are and how they ended up academically, we must ensure that we have nothing that breaks the opportunity for them to go to school,” Dr. Watson said. “We are ensuring that our students are safe, we are ensuring that our teachers are safe, and we are ensuring that the learning needs for each student are met.”
One of Watson’s first stops of the day was the P-TECH program at Dekaney Ninth-Grade Center, where a partnership with Lone Star College–North Harris is providing a rigorous curriculum that allows students to graduate high school with not only a high school degree, but an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming.
Logan Carger, an Advanced Geometry teacher with the P-TECH program, said she was looking forward to an academically challenging yet rewarding experience for her students, whom she hopes to nudge a little outside their comfort zones this school year.
“We have a group of like-minded kids. I was a computer programming kid, so I have a heart for it, and I enjoy bringing them out of their shells because I know that is the biggest thing with computer technology kids,” Carger said. “I don’t want this to feel like a classroom – I want it to feel like a cohort – and I like building relationships with my students and just having that dialogue.”
Westfield High School student Blake Washington said it felt good to be back in person for his senior year, rather than spending an additional year learning remotely.
“I got tired of being behind a computer screen. There were a lot of distractions. I was at home and I was focused but not as focused as in a school setting,” Washington said, adding that he hopes to graduate in the top 10 percent of his class. “I’m ready to learn new things and be around people, and I’m looking forward to graduating. If I don’t get an athletic scholarship, I’m looking at Xavier University in Louisiana.”
Over at the new School for International Studies at Bammel, parent Vicki Georgia was dropping off her son Jaxon for his first day of kindergarten. Georgia said the dual language program was an important draw for her family, especially since Jaxon started his dual language journey at the age of 2 in Baltimore.
As the district’s first pre-K-8 campus, offering two-way dual language programming, the school will add a grade level each year through eighth grade and will include foreign languages and world culture at the middle school level.
“I think the possibilities are endless as to what can be achieved here (at Bammel),” Georgia said. “I think a great gift that any parent can give to a child is dual language, biliteracy and biculturalism.”
Jaxon summed up his thoughts on his first day of school: “I’m looking forward to learning stuff and making good friends. And I hope I learn a lot of Spanish.”
Here are some highlights of what’s new this year at Spring ISD:
- ZPass system: To ensure a safe journey on buses to and from campuses, the district has introduced a new ZPass system. This scanner system will allow parents to keep track of their students in real time, letting them know when and where their student gets on and off the bus. Students carry a small card that automatically logs their entry or exit
when they pass the scanner on the school bus. The information is then instantly and securely available to parents. Notifications can also be sent directly to their computer or cell phone via a text message. To learn more, visit www.springisd.org/zpass.
- Free meals: This school year, Spring ISD will be offering free breakfast and lunch to all students in every school, along with free supper to students involved in after-school programs at many campuses. Each campus will offer a la carte items for purchase at meal times. These items may be purchased with cash or the student’s meal account. For more information, visit www.springisd.org/nutrition.
- Expanded pre-K: Spring ISD is offering full-day pre-K at 25 elementary school campuses and at the new School for International Studies at Bammel. The district is offering a tuition-free option for 4-year-olds who don’t meet state eligibility requirements, with seats awarded on a space-available basis. Learn more at www.springisd.org/prek.