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La Joya ISD Sports and Learning Complex updates

The La Joya Independent School District discussed several new proposals and plans for the future of the district Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Major discussion items brought up during the meeting included updates on the opening and operational hours of La Joya ISD’s Sports and Learning Complex which will house a natatorium, a planetarium and a water park. Said additions to the district are expected to bring in students as well as members of the community throughout the summer.

LJISD LogoAlfredo Vela, the district’s assistant superintendent for administration and finance, presented on the natatorium and water park operations for the upcoming summer and school year.

“We’ve had a very competitive swimming and diving team, and they never really had a home,” Vela said. “And now they’re going to have pretty much a state of the art facility.”

Vela spoke about the importance of these facilities for the students and said that promoting academic as well as athletic success was vital for La Joya ISD.

“And then we’re going to have our planetarium,” Vela said. “And it’s going to really expand our curriculum.”

Vela said that all of this was for the kids, and the benefits for the community are a plus.

“La Joya ISD has always been the type of school district that provides for the kids,” Vela said. “We’re entrusted with 28,000 plus kids on a daily basis so, we’re proud of the fact that we provide for our kids whatever is necessary, whether it’s to learn in the classroom or compete in athletic events.”

The water park will be open to the public every day during the summer (Memorial Day until the weekend prior to Labor Day) from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. except for Wednesdays, which will be used for training and maintenance. Adults 18 and older will have to pay $7 to enter the park, high school students with a La Joya ID will pay $5, and children age 3-13 and senior citizens will pay $4 for entry.

The natatorium and tennis courts will also be available for public use, unless a practice or meet is scheduled for the district. The planetarium, another part of the additions to district facilities, will be open for La Joya ISD students only, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A special ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Friday, March 2 at 9 a.m.

Another item up for discussion was an update on La Joya’s Truancy Recruitment and Recovery programs. Ricardo Villarreal, the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, presented the information and what the programs were doing for schools in La Joya.

“We have several students who are missing school not because of choice, but because many have work to help support their family, and others because of health conditions, they are in constant need of medical care,” Villarreal said. “Because of that, this school year, the Truancy Prevention Office, the Superintendent’s Department, and the Student Recovery Department initiated the Option-Flex School Day Program.”

The program, also known as SATA (Student Attendance and Tracking Accountability), allows students who have missed school for extenuating circumstances to make up time before and after school, as well as on Saturdays.

Villarreal said that the promotion of education is one of the main strategies for guiding students on the path to achievement, and these programs are in place for students who struggle for various reasons both in and out of their control.

“There’s always been a need in this area, and we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot of need because you have families where it’s more important to pay the rent, because they’re low-income” Villarreal said. “And nothing is more important than helping students who want to continue their education but are struggling.”

Before heading into executive session, the board approved of the district’s Early Notification Registration Incentive Plan for employees who are eligible for retirement. District Superintendent Alda Benavides stressed that the plan is completely voluntary, and included specific information for those looking into opting for the registration incentive.

“This is strictly voluntary, it’s just an invitation to let them know that if they are thinking of retirement, there’s an incentive,” Benavides said. “A person who decides to take this Incentive Resignation Plan would get 20 percent of their base salary.”

The person must be eligible for retirement, worked for La Joya ISD for the last ten consecutive years, and be willing to finish off the 2017-2018 school year and not return for the following year. They must leave the district for the next five years.

This is a one-time opportunity for employees at La Joya ISD – it does not include retire/rehire employees, and sign-up for the plan will be between Feb. 1 and March 20.

In other business, many recognitions were made for La Joya ISD students and faculty.

Viva Selena Lopez was brought forth for winning Special Olympics Athlete of the Year, and two teachers (David A. Garza and Ahmad M. Harb) were selected as candidates to the Harvard University Mathematics for Teaching Graduate Program.

The School Board Trustees were also recognized in honor of School Board Recognition Month and presented with wreaths made by students from schools in the district.

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