What you need to know about the new programs at Alief ISD

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

ALIEF, Texas - It’s back to school season in Houston and students in over 20 districts returned to class Wednesday, including Alief Independent School District.

The district is implementing several new programs to help the district’s 46,000 students get ahead in their education and gain important experience that can be applied when they finish school.

Here are some of the new programs at Alief ISD: 

All Day Pre-K

This has been years in the making and this year district officials are going full steam ahead. Alief ISD has selected five elementary campuses to pilot the full-day pre-K program this year. Students will start around 7 a.m. and end around 3 p.m. Alief ISD previously offered a half-day pre-K program, but officials wanted to do more. A task force was assigned to see the feasibility and benefits of the possibility of extending the half-day program. The goal is to have students ready for kindergarten, engage students early and to have every student reading on grade level by third grade. Studies show that students who attended a high-quality, full-day pre-K program out-performed those who attended a half-day program, according to the district. Petrosky, Mahanay, Hicks, Bush and Cummings elementary schools were strategically chosen for their location and space availability.

"We want them moving, active wellness, social-emotional learning skills are going to be highlighted," said Kathleen Jahn, Alief ISD executive director of curriculum & instruction. "They'll eat breakfast and lunch. Then they'll have a lot of academic learning throughout the day as well, so it will be broken up into chunks, and they are going to think they are having the time of their lives."

More info: Aliefisd.net

Alief ISD Mandarin Immersion Program

Alief ISD is known as the international district, with more than 85 languages spoken at the district. The program kicked off in 2018 starting with its first group of kindergarteners. This year will be the school's second-ever cohort. The goal is to get students learning Mandarin with a robust, active and immersive teaching plan so that the students can achieve their biliteracy seal and be fluent in Mandarin by the time they leave the program. The first part of the program goes from kindergarten to fourth grade. Students will then enter into intermediate programs. District officials said the program came after a growing desire to offer languages that are advantageous to students who are growing up in a global economy.

"The full curriculum is robust -- half of it is in English and the other half is in Mandarin Chinese," said  Patricia Cantu, Alief ISD director of second language education. "So when parents hear that their children are being immersed in mathematics and in science completely in Chinese, they are very intrigued by that and they realize that this really will be a bilingual program, and (their) child will have academic language in Mandarin Chinese."

Alief ISD is a limited open enrollment school district, so others can take advantage of this program even if they don't live within the Alief ISD boundaries. The district said there are 50 spots and some are still available. Parents outside the district would have to provide their own transportation for their children to attend.

More info: Aliefisd.net/mandarin

Center for Advanced Careers: Veterinary Science Program

The veterinary science program housed at the new Center for Advanced Careers, students in Alief ISD now can obtain their certified veterinary assistant certification. This allows them to go directly to the veterinary clinic and begin working. This program, open to juniors and seniors, allows students to obtain certification and begin working right away in veterinary clinics, according to the district. 

“We went door-to-door to every veterinary clinic within a 35-mile radius before this program even started,” said instructor Erica Santillan. “We introduced the program to every vet clinic that would give us time. I think that introduction has paid off as we have a few students already working part-time in veterinary clinics, and they come back with excellent stories and advice for other students who are pursuing a similar path.”

Students begin the program in ninth grade by taking principles of agriculture, food and natural resources and then advancing to livestock production, equine science and small animal management as sophomores before continuing on to the Center for Advanced Careers, according to the district.

“Even though we don’t offer services for livestock here at the Center for Advanced Careers, these courses do help students prepare for a career in veterinary science,” said instructor Phyllis Sams. “We do offer grooming services and physical exams for small animals here.”

The learning laboratory is used as a real veterinary grooming station and clinic. It is complete with an exam room, kennel, grooming station and more. Students are able to get hands-on experience as the public is welcome to sign up their pets for several grooming services at a low cost.

More info: Alief Veterinary Science Program

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