New school, new concept for learning in Hays CISD

BUDA, Texas (KXAN) — A brand new middle school will open its doors in Hays County this school year offering a space and teaching style unlike anything available in Central Texas.

McCormick Middle School was built for $35 million from a 2014 bond. It’s the district’s sixth middle school since its student body population has nearly doubled in the past 10 years  – growing from 11,852 in 2006 to 19,500 for the 2016-2017 school year.

McCormick Middle SchoolWhen you walk into McCormick Middle School the design is much different from most middle schools. The first thing you see is a very small library to the left and in front the combined cafeteria, auditorium, and open space. Classrooms are designed so the desks can fit together and everything acts as a white board, from the desks to the furniture.

Principal Thad Gittens, who recently came from Spring ISD, says the design goes along with an entirely new learning concept the district is trying out; calling it a rebranding of sorts. The goal is to create self-directed students who can work independently.

For example, students are now called “learners”, teachers are “facilitators”, and staff members are called “educators.” The facilitator or teacher will not stand in front of the class teaching. For example, a math teacher will not demonstrate how to solve a problem on the white board, instead they will have students go online or use their book to figure out how to do it and the teacher will provide one on one help.

“If we are serious about creating self-directed independent learners then we have to put them in situations which they are able to build those skills as opposed to just running to their aid to just give them the answer,” said Gittens.

The library is also a new concept with it now being called the Center for Learning and Intervention. Instead of being in one space it’s spread throughout the school so students can self-check out books whenever they need something.

Over the summer teachers had professional development to adjust their teaching style to this new way of learning.

If the concept is a success it could be adopted district-wide.

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