School Times Now!
Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Ph.D., visited Prairie Creek Elementary on November 28 for a school assembly. Dr. Chiao has been on four space flights and was most recently the Commander and NASA Science Officer of the 10th mission to the International Space Station from October of 2004 to April of 2005.
During the assembly at PCE, Dr. Chiao showed a video and PowerPoint presentation about his six and a half month mission on the International Space Station. Dr. Chiao was selected by NASA in 1990 to become an astronaut, and has received numerous honors and has been the recipient of four NASA Space Flight Medals.
Dr. Chiao is special to Prairie Creek Elementary because he is the uncle of kindergarten student Noble Wulffraat. Following the school presentation, he visited the kindergarten classes and autographed photos for each kindergarten student. He told the students that when he was eight years old, he dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and on each photo wrote, “Follow your dreams!” >Top
Richardson ISD is seeking a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to begin next year’s school calendar before August 21. This is the second consecutive year that RISD has asked for a Senate Bill 101 waiver. The bill was passed in 2001 requiring districts to not begin before the week that included Aug. 21. Most districts in North Texas routinely ask for this waiver in order to better accommodate their communities.

This year, the district is reviewing six calendar options, including one that begins after Labor Day. The idea of a post-Labor-Day mandatory start date has been presented in several school finance proposals to the Texas Legislature, but none of those proposed bills were passed into law. At this time, school districts retain local control of their calendars.

The Board of Trustees is looking at all options, but if they were to choose to seek a waiver, notice of a public hearing must be published by mid-December.

When proposing calendar options, RISD considers the following:

  • The best instructional calendar for students.
  • State testing requirements/dates.
  • Effective calendars include professional development days throughout the year to best enhance learning.
  • State mandated number of instructional days.
  • State mandated number of professional development days.
  • Responsiveness to meaningful holidays and religious celebrations.
  • Responsiveness to constituents’ requests. In RISD, parents in past surveys have requested:
    • First semester to end prior to winter break so students do not spend their holiday studying for finals.
    • Not to use ‘early release days’ except for finals week due to difficulty of scheduling for parents.
    • To complete the second semester by Memorial Day.

Also, most North Texas districts attempt to match school calendar holidays for the benefit of those who live in one district and work in another.

District staff members have or staff has advised the Board of Trustees that a calendar similar to the 2005-2006 calendar is the preferred option.  Students would begin school the week of August 14 (Options 1, 2, and 6). Staff has also provided the Board two options in which classes would begin on Monday, August 21 (Options 3 and 4).  Selecting either of these options would not require a state waiver.

Each of these options, plus one (Option 5) with a post-Labor Day start, are provided here for review.

For more information on the Calendar Options, please visit the RISD Web site at >Top
On Wednesday, the Greenwood Hills Elementary Honor Choir sang holiday tunes for their new friends at Wachovia Bank.
Wachovia, a new partner for Greenwood Hills, was scheduled as one of several stops on the choir’s holiday tour this week.  The students took a moment at the beginning of their performance to say in unison, “Thanks for adopting us, Wachovia!” Wachovia employees and the choir are pictured in the bank's lobby. >Top
Whether or not to close school because of bad weather is always a difficult decision. The district uses these guidelines to make determinations:
  • Forecast by the weather bureau
  • Road conditions within RISD
  • Traveling conditions for staff outside RISD
  • Conditions at RISD campuses (parking lots, sidewalks)
  • Decisions and reports from neighboring districts
Traditionally, RISD chooses not to close early or delay the start of school for several reasons:
  • Parents have difficulty rescheduling child care for early release
  • Young students should not be sent home early to empty homes
  • High school students may be playing bumper cars on parking lots because even though major streets may thaw, parking lots in the shade remain icy.
  • Bus schedules are difficult to change on short notice.
  • If school was delayed two hours, then those who waited for the buses at 7 a.m. would be waiting at 9 a.m. and streets still may not be clear enough for students to be transported safely at that time.
  • If school was delayed two hours, then high school students would not report until 11 a.m. and leave five hours later. This shortened schedule is not conducive to quality instruction.
  • Staff may have a difficult time coming in from all over the Metroplex because of differences in street conditions and because their children may be in another district where schools are closed all day.
At this time, it does not seem likely that TEA will give North Texas districts waivers for the snow day last week, so please plan to make up the day on Friday, March 10, the Friday before Spring Break. >Top
In early December, Aikin Elementary fourth graders traveled to "Camp Aikin" (in the school cafeteria) to enjoy Aikin Camp “4” Writers. They spent the day among tents, sleeping bags and a campfire participating in fun lessons related to TAKS Writing. Students wore camp bandanas as camp counselors led the “Punctuation Rap” and other camp songs. An innovative way to learn! >Top
The RISD students who participated in the SBC Cotton Bowl Art Contest did their part to get the teams and visitors to Dallas ready for the Cotton Bowl matchup on January 2.

More than 5,000 Richardson ISD and Dallas ISD students submitted artwork as part of the 2005 contest, with every drawing submitted being used to welcome visitors to Dallas and the Cotton Bowl.
The winning entries in each category will be professionally framed and displayed at the Dallas Museum of Art. More than 1,500 others are made into unique placemats for the "Big Play" luncheon for the players and fans of both teams on New Year's Eve.

The remaining works are placed in the participating "host" hotels with a note that says "Welcome to the Cotton Bowl through the eyes of children," becoming a treasured souvenir for the visitors to Dallas.
2005 Cotton Bowl Art Contest - RISD Winners Include:

First Place
Yael Flam - Bowie Elementary
Alejandra Hernandez - RISD Academy
Lizeth Valdez - Mark Twain Elementary (pictured)

Second Place
Mario Gonzalez - Bukhair Elementary
Scarlet Hayward - Mohawk Elementary
Edgar Reyes - RISD Academy

Third Place
Barbara Bersan - Bowie Elementary
Matthew Flores - Mark Twain Elementary (pictured)
Nicole Norman - Prestonwood Elementary >Top
Lake Highlands Elementary fifth-grade artists were honored at the new White Rock Coffee shop in Lake Highlands recently. Student artwork hangs in the restaurant which is run by Lake Highlands graduates Nancy Baker, '77, and husband Bob Baker. The shop on Northwest Highway just west of Ferndale is fairly close to the elementary school and they have received such good response to the student art that they will continue the exhibits with other grades from the school. Here an artist proudly points out his work at the artist's reception in mid-December. >Top
Fourth-grade students at Thurgood Marshall Elementary were rewarded with a special lunch in the courtyard for their performance on a recent Math Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Check. They beat the district's average, and ranked right up there with the best! They ate in the "Thurgood Award Courtyard' with their teachers. All were wearing hats because the entire event was called "Hats Off to 4th Grade." >Top
Bill Bragg, the voice of "Big Tex" at the State Fair of Texas, and a Richardson resident, recently visited the fifth-grade class at Canyon Creek Elementary. He has been the voice of Big Tex for three years. The 52-foot statue, the official mascot of the fair, celebrated its 53rd birthday this year. Tex wears a size 70 cowboy boot and his hat is a whopping 75 gallon Stetson. Mr. Bragg showed the students that his boots are not quite that large! >Top
Advanced Placement Biology and Economics students from Lake Highlands High School collaborated in a series of presentations this month on how biotechnology is impacting today's world.

Hannah Adams and Mallory Ashbaugh lectured on the economic ramifications of national preparedness for the possibility of Pandemic Influenza. >Top
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