A change in testing policy at Longview ISD could lead to a need for expansion of existing campuses or even construction of new ones, the district’s spokeswoman said this week, though the possibility is not imminent.
Already, though, the change is spurring to a reallocation of classrooms at the district’s sought-after Hudson PEP campus, where it now must make room for an increase in students who qualified to attend there under a shift put in place last year. The campus didn’t have room this year for even half of the new students who qualified.
After Longview ISD switched last year to using only the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, a national standardized test, for all students in kindergarten through seventh grade, 234 kindergarten students qualified as first-graders for Hudson PEP, district Testing Coordinator Catina Love said last week.
Of those, the district has room to accept 102 students, Love said last week.
The remaining 132 were put on a waiting list, district spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said. And while the district has no plans to limit out-of-district transfer students who might qualify for Hudson PEP, in-district students will get first choice, Ross said.
“If we have so many out-of-district transfers that we need more space, that’s a beautiful problem to have,” she said. “But at this time, we’re always going to give our priority to our in-district students.”
Ross said the district has its eye on the Hudson PEP campus.
“We’re going to watch closely and see if there’s any need to add more space in the building or bring in portable buildings as a temporary measure,” she said. “We’re going to have to pay close attention to students that qualify, moving forward.”
Ross said the district has no concrete details yet because the campus is not over its total capacity.
“We are not close to being overcapacity districtwide, but should a campus be close to overcapacity, we will find a way to make it work for that campus,” she said. “We don’t ever want to turn away a child. Whether that means bringing in more teachers, creating more classrooms or passing a bond that will build a new school.”
To make room for the extra first-graders, Hudson PEP Principal Sue Wilson said the campus is renovating three classrooms to make a total of nine first-grade classes when school starts in August, an increase from the six classes in the 2018-19 school year.
The campus could not add more than three first-grade classrooms to accommodate all students who qualified because of a lack of space, Ross said.
Ross said that after the Iowa assessment identifies students as gifted and talented, they go through additional testing. They take the Cognitive Abilities Test, submit writing samples and complete a family survey.
After those steps were taken last year, Ross said 23 incoming second-graders qualified for GT, as did 14 incoming third-graders, 20 incoming fourth-graders, 18 incoming fifth-graders and 26 incoming sixth-graders.
Numbers for sixth and seventh grades are not available yet, because they will do the additional testing this fall, Ross said.
Wilson said the campus has room for more students in the older grades.
“The ones that qualified are all going to be able to be admitted,” Wilson said. “We had some space because people move during the year, so we had some slots open, so those students will just go into those classrooms. But we do not have to add any additional classrooms at this time for those grades.”
As far as the growth at Hudson PEP is concerned, Wilson said she has been assured the district has a plan for future growth, with room for students who qualify.
Students who qualify for a gifted and talented program but are too old to attend Hudson PEP — which teaches grades 1-5 — have other options, such as Foster Middle School, Wilson said. According to the Longview ISD School of Choice pamphlet, Foster is considered a GT campus.
Ross said the district is not concerned about space on other campuses for students who qualify for GT programs. She said all campuses have some sort of GT program for which a student can qualify, but Hudson PEP is the only campus for which students need to test to attend.
And she said the decision to use districtwide testing was not just for the purpose of finding students who qualify for Hudson PEP; it also was to provide data for teachers and administrators.
Testing data from students too old for Hudson PEP will help teachers track growth in the classroom, she said.