LEAGUE CITY, Texas — Students and faculty are two weeks away from blazing new traditions and forming an innovative learning model at Clear Creek Independent School District’s Education Village.
The $116 million complex, the first of its kind in Texas, features three schools that accommodate prekindergarten through 12th grade on a 144-acre campus near state Highway 96 and state Highway 146.
Clear Falls High School and Bayside Intermediate will open in two weeks when Clear Creek students head back Aug. 23. Sandra Mossman Elementary opened in fall 2009.
The village features a campuswide greenhouse, integrated computer technology and a biotechnology lab for engineering, health science and agricultural science classes.
Retractable walls separating adjacent cafeterias connect the schools.
"You have to think more about the three schools as unified," Clear Falls Principal Karen Engle said. "From a high school administrator’s perspective, you’re always thinking about the feeder schools. Here, all three schools work closely together to help transition students to high school or intermediate school."
The schools share a common mascot — the Knight — that forms a sense of village spirit, Engle said.
Instead of homecoming, each campus will celebrate "Newcoming" in September with a villagewide parade and pep rally.
The schools share a serving line in the cafeteria, and the same heating ventilating and air conditioning system, which helped trim the district’s budget deficit to $3.4 million.
Elective, foreign language and some math teachers will pull double duty teaching classes in the intermediate and high schools.
About 80 teachers from the district were transferred to the new schools, but further personnel and utility costs added about $4.5 million to Clear Creek’s budget, Superintendent Greg Smith said.
Clear Creek eliminated five administrative positions during this school year, but Smith does not expect to cut teachers, counselors or nurses.
Overtime and substitute teacher budgets have been reduced, and fewer employees will travel outside the area for staff development.
Campus administrators have implemented a "purposeful movement" system of accompanying students to different schools.
Teachers must accompany a student between schools through keyless entries.
Some elementary school parents were worried about high school students inappropriately interacting with younger students, Mossman Principal Stephanie McBride said.
"Movement in the building is very secure," she said. "Children aren’t interacting with other grades unless it’s teacher supervised."
Some parents were concerned with increased car traffic for drop offs and picking up students.
A traffic light installed at state Highway 96 leading to the front entrance of the village will direct traffic, Engle said.
The three schools also have staggered start times, which helps alleviate congestion.
Elementary teachers will have a better understanding of how to prepare students to succeed through high school by working closely with secondary teachers.
Children study U.S. history in fifth, eighth and 11th grades, so teachers in that subject will determine how to build on concepts, McBride said.
The village’s makeup will allow elementary and intermediate students to easily transition to a new school, Bayside Principal Jamey Majewski said.
"It’s hard from elementary to intermediate," he said. "Students go from having one teacher for every subject to seven. Keeping more assignments organized is hard for some students."
Some students will attend the village from kindergarten through 12th grade, which will provide sustained relationships between students and teachers.
"They’re going to know these educators and role models for years," McBride said.