Washington High School: Home of the Blue Jays

Preparations are underway for the start of a new school year in the Washington School District.

“At this stage, all of the focus is on the first day of school for both students and staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer.

The first day of school for all students in the district is Wednesday, Aug. 15. Students will follow a full-day schedule.

VanLeer said she loves the first day and week of school and enjoys being at the schools to welcome students and staff back.

“It’s always fun to see everyone and there’s always a lot of excitement and energy,” she said.

Opening ceremonies for all teachers and staff will take place Monday morning, Aug. 13, in the C.J. Burger Fine Arts Center at Washington High School. Staff members will then head back to their school buildings that day to work in their rooms and attend meetings.

VanLeer said new teacher orientation and in service will take place July 30-Aug. 1. The district has about 20 new teachers this year.

“We cover a lot over those three days with technology training, safety discussions, answering HR questions, professional development and specific training to their teaching area,” she said. “The new teachers also get to meet their mentor, who will be there to help support them during the school year.”

Professional learning cohorts for all certified staff will meet Aug. 10.

Classroom at Mercy

The new school year also will bring some “exciting” changes, VanLeer said, including the opening of a classroom at Mercy Hospital for the health occupations students from the Four Rivers Career Center.

The district and Mercy are teaming up to sponsor a Health Science Academy of Innovation.

VanLeer said the partnership, along with a classroom at the hospital, will provide a truly “authentic” and “real world” learning space.

“This is about using education today to shape the opportunities of tomorrow,” she said.

VanLeer said the partnership would allow health care professionals to collaborate with instructors to enhance curriculum where applicable.

VanLeer said participating students will be dressed in scrubs, replicating the work environment, and be exposed to high-demand areas within the Mercy system.

BUILD Academy

Another new program being piloted at two elementary schools this year is the BUILD (Building Unique and Innovative Learning by Design) Academy.

The sixth-grade classes at Washington West and Campbellton will attend classes for half the day for one semester each to design, build, market and sell doghouses.

The students, working in teams, and directed by their teachers, will work collaboratively on all aspects of the project which also will incorporate all subject areas.

It’s an entrepreneurial mindset program, VanLeer said.

At the end of the semester, each class will auction off their doghouses. The money raised will help sustain the program going forward, said VanLeer.

“We should end up with 24 doghouses to sell,” she said. “We are piloting this program at two schools and then will see if we can take it to scale and offer it to all of the schools.”

VanLeer said she thinks the students, as well as the teachers, will enjoy the experience.

“It’s something really creative and hands-on,” she said.

Strategic Plan

Another major project underway in the district is the development of a new five-year strategic plan, which should be completed in December or January.

The new plan is being developed to drive improvement and innovation in the district through 2023.

The focus areas are safety, health and well-being (students and staff), academic achievement and support, family and community engagement, human and fiscal resources, and facilities and learning environments.

“There’s a lot of work being done and still to be done with the plan,” she said. “We also are talking about how to communicate and share the plan with all stakeholders and the community.”