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Decision coming on initial grade levels for high school

Principal hired for Shadow Creek campus; construction targets August 2016 opening

Alvin Independent School District will use the summer to decide which grade levels to include when new Shadow Creek High School opens in August 2016, as well as to catch up on construction at the campus after recent bad weather, according to Superintendent Buck Gilcrease.

After hiring Kelly Hestand as principal in May, the district now aims to decide by September whether the school will begin with grades 9 and 10 or 9 through 11, he said.

The district will decide based on information obtained through forums, meetings and surveys conducted over the past few months. The decision will determine how extracurricular activities such as sports will be handled, Gilcrease said.

If the school starts with grades 9 and 10, "in general the first year, individual sports like tennis and golf could compete at the varsity level and everything else would compete at subvarsity," said Gilcrease, who began as superintendent in January. "If it opens 9-11, there's more options for varsity in the first year.

"With other extracurricular activities, they will compete right away with everything."

Once the decision on grade levels has been made, Alvin ISD will submit its numbers to the University Interscholastic League in October for alignment, Gilcrease said.

Shadow Creek Ranch parent Timi Forrest, whose daughter, Reagan, will attend Shadow Creek High as a ninth-grader in 2016, said the decision on starting grade levels is the main concern for some parents and students who live in the planned attendance zone for the new school.

That area now is zoned for Manvel High School.

"If they decide it will be 9-11 grades, will all of the (local) kids at Manvel (High School) have to go to Shadow Creek or have the option to stay?" Forrest said. "The parents have said that they want their kids to go to Shadow Creek because there are fantastic opportunities and its proximity, but then the students who are already at Manvel might want to stay because they are already a part of that community. It is definitely a dilemma."

Shadow Creek High School will be at the corner of Broadway Street and Kirby Drive in Pearland. Texas 288 will mark the eastern boundary for its attendance zone, which will extend from north of FM 2234 south to a jagged boundary that includes parts of Texas 6 and CR 5648.

According to Gilcrease, incoming 10th-grade students in the attendance zone for Shadow Creek High will have to attend that school instead of Manvel High in 2016.

If the district decides to open with grades 9-11, it will determine whether to let incoming 11th-graders that year use a one-time transfer rule to have the option to stay at Manvel if they choose.

Because of many rainy days this spring, the district will also have to catch up on construction during summer.

Contractor Gemma Construction, which the district has previously worked with, is working evenings and weekends to be back within the building timeline, said Jeffery Couvillian, the district's director of building programs.

"We would love to be about 30 days ahead of where we are right now (with construction), but the delays will not carry over to our opening in 2016," Couvillian said. "We're probably 45 percent complete."

Workers are focusing on completing the building 's shell.

"Once that happens, weather that we've been having is not a big deal," he said. "We'll finish up towards beginning of summer 2016."

Couvillian confirmed that the district is still on pace with the $104.5 million building cost, which was approved by district voters in a November 2013 bond election.

The district said the grade levels decision will impact enrollment numbers. But according to Gilcrease, the attendance boundary established for Shadow Creek High indicates that 1,805 high school-aged students will live in the boundary for the school's first year. That number is estimated to increase to 2,534 by the 2021/2022 school year.

The school will hire teachers and staff from within and outside Alvin ISD beginning in the fall, with Hestand mainly responsible for hiring teachers, Gilcrease said.

Hestand met with some members of the Shadow Creek Ranch community at a meet-and-greet at Nolan Ryan Junior High School on June 1.

She said ensuring parent's high expectations for the school as she lays out curriculum options will be important, such as implementing innovative programs and using her background in math ( she has a bachelor's degree in math from Harding University) for upper-level course options.

"We will build off the programs that are in place at our junior highs, while also bringing in unique and innovative instructional programs evidenced by our focus on career and technical education," Hestand said. "My vision is to provide our community with a campus that excels in all programs, whether academic, fine arts, athletic or extracurricular. My vision is that Shadow Creek High School will be on the cutting edge when it comes to preparing our students for post-secondary educational and career opportunities."

That's the sort of vision Forrest said parents expressed at open forums.

"People are interested to make sure things like advanced classes, foreign language, lots of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) classes are offered," Forrest said. "We've been able to ask what type of classes and sports they will offer. The school has tried to really hear what we want … and (Hestand) is really excited to be working with the community."