Enthusiasm is high amongst students anticipating the new school year at Wayne County Schools. Especially after families have visited the schools to meet teachers and see the freshly polished classrooms decorated with inviting themes conducive to learning. They have been attending back to school orientations to kick off the 2017-18 school year, which begins August 16th.
Students have a lot to look forward to this school year with the promise of high quality instruction, multiple resources inside and outside the classroom, and a variety of extra-curricular opportunities. Over 3,300 students will be able to take advantage of these perks whether they are just entering preschool or seniors in high school. Classes begin at 8:15 a.m. and conclude at 3:15 p.m.
“We want to welcome our students back to campus,” said Wayne County Superintendent Wayne Roberts. “It’s a great time to be a student with so many options available. Our staff is well trained and will be providing all kinds of services so students can learn at greater depths than ever before.”
While the students have enjoyed their summer break, all kinds of professional development activities have been underway over the summer for teachers and staff members. “Our focus this year, as it was last year, is to provide high quality instruction in every classroom, every day. We have been retooling our Professional Learning Communities so they have the greatest impact on learning,” said Chief Academic Officer Brian Dishman.
Each of the schools rely on the efforts of the Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) to guide instruction. These groups of teachers collaborate in regard to everything from looking at student data together to planning curriculum to establishing the next steps in the instructional process. They are made up of teachers in perhaps the same content area or grade level to determine how best to help students learn in the most efficient manner.
“We want to make sure out PLC’s concentrate on student learning and how we can best support that process,” explained Dishman.
One of the keys to learning is good attendance. So, with this fresh start to school, school officials want to embrace the renewed back to school excitement towards learning throughout the school year. In other words, they do not want the momentum to stall.
“As we return to school, all of the schools will be focusing on student attendance,” said Assistant Superintendent Allen Clark. “This is due in large part to so many local students being chronically absent.”
Wayne County is not alone. Chronic absenteeism is being addressed both statewide and nationally. The bottom line for these students is that when they miss school, they suffer academically, so that is why educators are so concerned about this issue.
“We are taking a much more school centered approach to address this issue. We consider any student who missed 17 days a school year or two days a month, whether they are excused or unexcused absences, chronically absent. So, even more specific monitoring than usual will be instituted on a monthly basis,” said Clark.
Literacy continues to be an important aspect of each child’s education. Elementary teachers follow the Kentucky Reading Project and the middle and high school teachers are well versed in the Adolescent Literacy Project. In addition, teachers will continue to integrate Converge (a software management tool) into instruction.
Walker Early Learning Center Principal Angela Ballinger is excited her teachers are benefitting from the knowledge learned through the Kentucky Reading Project that follows the best practices in Reading. “Learning to read is so important to a child’s education and our teachers are ready to instill those basics through all kinds of strategies.”
She is also happy to be starting a new wrap-around childcare program at Walker Early Learning Center manned by a certified teacher to provide enrichment opportunities to preschoolers before and after school. “It is so important for preschoolers to get a strong start in school and become kindergarten-ready,” said Ballinger.
First and second graders at Bell Elementary will benefit from a strong PLC program where teachers do an excellent job of consistently fine-tuning the curriculum. Principal Derek Harris said they will be asking parents for their support in focusing on attendance and tardiness this school year.
“Attendance makes a difference in a child’s life,” said Harris. “We will be featuring Friday celebrations for good attendance.”
Like Bell Elementary, Monticello Elementary will have a similar focus on attendance for students in grades three, four and five.
They are particularly excited to be offering a new program in the area of technology. A coding class for all the students will be implemented. Monticello Elementary Principal Stewart York explained that the weeklong program will be offered to students at the end of their STEM Project Lead the Way special class, which was very successful last year.
“We feel that students need an introductory coding class while at Monticello Elementary so that they are better equipped to excel in technology related courses in middle and high school. Down the stretch, we plan to implement an after school coding class/club at some point during the school year. I hope to see us expand into more advanced classes next year correlating with grade advancement,” said York.
Wayne County Middle School students in sixth through eighth grade will benefit from teachers who have a caring disposition for this particular age group. They will be holding a transition fair for the sixth graders just entering middle school this Friday, August 11th from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to ensure the students have plenty of time to explore the building, practice with opening a combination lock, meet with their teachers, complete needed paperwork and receive their Chromebook.
Wayne County Middle School Principal Melissa Gossage said, “One new opportunity available for all students at the middle and high school beginning this school year is our District 1 to 1 Chromebook initiative. All middle and high school students will be assigned a Chromebook for use during the 2017-18 school year, meaning every child will have the opportunity to use the device at their convenience both during the school day and after.”
“The goal of this program is to promote student engagement and enthusiasm for learning, increase student computer literacy, prepare students for the 21st century workplace, and improve student achievement,” explained Gossage.
Chromebooks have already been distributed to students at Wayne County High School during a two-day process. Principal Justin Alley provided an informative presentation to famililes and the technology department helped assign computers to each student. Also, along the lines of technology, new computer Science classes at the high school will give students who are interested in deeper learning regarding technology an opportunity to learn computer “coding”, or programming.
“We will offer an Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science class that gives students the opportunity to earn college credit. Computer Coding offers students many opportunities for high paying jobs. These classes also lead to industry-recognized certifications. Some of these students may eventually serve as interns at local businesses who are looking for help with their networking, and some students will operate the student “Help Desk” at school. That would entail working on school networking issues, hardware repair, and training opportunities,” said Wayne County High School Principal Justin Alley.
High school students will also notice the recognition boards for students meeting proficiency in state assessments and ACT accomplishments.
As always, student safety is very important. According to Transportation Director Don Neal, new buses have been added to the fleet. They have also upgraded their communication capabilities. They now have base radios on every bus and new cameras on board with better clarity and sound.
“All of the buses have been inspected and are ready for the new school year. Our bus drivers have attended their yearly eight-hour update training,” said Neal.