ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In a media briefing Tuesday, Abilene ISD Superintendent Dr. David Youg shared several updates on operations, including $2,000 retention incentive payments approved at Monday night’s school board meeting.

The payments will come in three installments to employees. The first payment at $1,000 to be dispersed in September, followed by $500 payments at the end of the fall and spring terms. Dr, Young says the payments are to entice current employees to remain with the district as staffing shortages continue.

“While we’re always working to recruit additional employees to our district, retaining the folks we have is the single most important thing we need to do,” said Dr. Young.

Also shared in the briefing was an upcoming district study to assess the needs of 5th-8th grade students.

The superintendent says a main motive for the study is to find out how to best address support for 5th and 6th graders in particular – acknowledging that students in those grades have different needs than their under or upper classmates.

“The 6th graders tend to have a different experience than the 7th and 8th graders and same for elementary school,” said Dr. Young. “We want to nurture their transition through our system in the best way possible.”

Currently, grade levels are divided among three levels: K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grades. The outcome of the study, Dr. Young says, could change that structure a longtime feature of the district’s curriculum with the possibily of adding an “intermediate” grade grouping.

“Instead of the system we currently have we could move to a system where we operate kindergarten through fourth grade to elementary schools, then we have fifth and sixth grader intermediate schools then 7th and 8th grade middle schools,” says Dr. Young.

That structure change will be more closely assessed as the study gets underway says Dr. Young.

On Tuesday just an hour after the briefing ended Abilene ISD in a press release announced that current Austin Elementary School Principal Alison Camp will lead the district-wide survey. Once this school year ends she will start a new role as AISD’s Middle Years Transition Specialist.

The district says the search for her replacement as Austin Elementary Principal is underway.