Photo: Todd Lintzen, Bridge City schools superintendent, checks out the headphones that are part of the reading station that’s part of a new classroom at Bridge City Intermediate School. Bridge City schools start classes Aug. 16.

 

Tara Fountain, principal at Bridge City Intermediate School, shows of new reading lab.

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Teachers are putting final touches on their new classrooms in the new $1.3-million addition to Bridge City Intermediate School and school days are just around the corner in Big Red Land.

After the Bridge City ISD went through a year-long process to qualify as a District of Innovation, a 2015 creation of the state legislature, it was allowed to adopt an innovative school schedule for 2017-18.

It begins Aug. 16 for students.

While all other Orange County school districts open their doors Aug. 28, Bridge City will take advantage of its early start to set up monthly professional development days – they used to be called teacher workdays – which result in three-day weekends for students.

“Our calendar provides for multiple professional development days, one per month,” Todd Lintzen, BCISD superintendent, says.

“I think it’s critical for us to keep track of where we’ve been and where we’re going. And it does give our students Fridays off once a month. I think it’s important to give our students a break from their hard work, too.”

Lintzen said that under the previous schedule, teachers had no time during the school year to meet and adjust their lesson plans with their supervisors and peers, except after school hours.

“They each have a 45-minute planning period each day, but that doesn’t even give them enough time to grade papers,” Lintzen said. “And most of them have to use that time for ARD [special ed] meetings.

“If you’re going to be on track with the students you’re teaching, you’re going to have to have meetings.

“All math teachers need to be in sync. All second-grade teachers need to be in sync. That takes time. You’ve got to plan it.”

Careful planning allowed BCISD to build the 10-classroom addition to the Intermediate School, which is home to the district’s third- through fifth-graders.

No bond issue was required.

“We were fortunate to have money in our fund balance so we could react quickly to a need for more space.

“More [money] than that, it takes a bond.”

The new structure, which is attached via hallway to a pre-existing Intermediate School building, features “flexible learning environment furniture,” desks that can be aligned in a variety of arrays, state of the art projection screens, “lots of countertops and storage,” and individual heater/air conditioner units, Lintzen said.

The district expects about 3,000 students in grades pre-K through high school.

“Typically, we don’t know the final totals until the Labor Day break,” the superintendent said.

“But we know that the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classes were bursting at the seams. That’s why we built the new (Intermediate School) building.

“We came up with projected [enrollment] numbers we’d be at, but there’s only a certain number we can have, because of capacity.”

Lintzen said while the elementary school for pre-K through grades 2 is filling up, and the intermediate school addition has solved problems there for a while, he’s concerned that new room will be needed for new programs being added or considered at the middle school and high school.

He says “we’re looking at adding robotics and drones at middle school.”

The middle school is the oldest Bridge City school building and the No. 2 problem he sees facing the district.

“No. 1 is teachers’ salaries,” Lintzen said. “We’ve fallen behind on our salaries, and we’re going to have to do something about it. We’re starting to feel the teacher shortage.

“No. 2 is going to be replacing the middle school. But if you don’t have teachers in the classroom, a great building is not going to teach the students.”

As BCISD wraps up its 2017-18 budget, Lintzen has no choice but to keep a close eye on Washington and Austin.

The U.S. Department of Education has cut $40,000 to $50,000 from its funding to BCISD, costing Lintzen to cut one of his intermediate school teachers and transfer another.

The Texas governor is pushing for a $1,000 per teacher pay raise, but is offering no funds to pay it.

If passed, it would require Lintzen to come up with an extra $270,000.