When the 2014-15 academic year starts in the St. Clair schools this week, students and their parents will notice some changes both inside and outside of the four buildings that make up the R-XIII district.
Teachers reported to work on Monday while students will have their first day of classes on Thursday. And it’s been a busy summer for the administration and plenty of others in getting everything ready.
“We’ve had a lot of projects this summer,” Assistant Superintendent Mark Denbow told The Missourian. “And, as always, our maintenance and custodial crews have done an outstanding job.”
Many of the changes have been cosmetic, the most noticeable of which is near St. Clair Elementary School. Over the summer, the two homes directly west of that school at 310 and 320 E. Springfield Road were razed, the debris was removed, the property was leveled and gravel was laid.
The school district had purchased the properties earlier.
“Those properties have been on our radar for quite some time,” Superintendent Mike Murphy said. “We’ve worked out the details with the elementary administration.”
During the upcoming school year, the gravel lot where the houses used to sit will be used as a pickup and dropoff spot for early education pupils.
“We’re going to have parents line up in some fashion and have their children enter into the building at that far end (west) at the beginning of the day, and the children will exit in the same way at the end of their day,” Murphy said. “That lot will serve as the parent dropoff and pickup point.”
The superintendent stressed that the dropoff and pickup spots for kindergarten and first and second grades will remain the same.
“The new location is for early childhood only,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the plan in place for this year will be evaluated under the district’s long-range planning goals.
“There’s quite a bit of space there,” he said. “It may be determined that there could be better use for the space.
“We are always going to want to do what is best for our kids,” he said. “That includes areas like transportation.”
Murphy said other project of note completed over the summer was an upgrade of the air conditioning units in the seventh-grade wing at St. Clair Junior High School.
“We’ve centralized the air conditioning in that wing,” he said. “It will be much better.”
A similar type of upgrade is on its way in a wing at the high school. It will improve cooling and heating in the area where the principal’s office is as well as to business, science and other classrooms in that wing.
“The new units will allow for some individual temperature control by the teachers,” Murphy said. “The district will be able to monitor the system as a whole, but still give the teachers a little freedom, about a 3- to 5-degree variance.”
Denbow said new security cameras have been installed at both elementary schools, and some much-needed concrete work was done at both the junior and senior high schools.
At the junior high, the concrete work was done near the main entrance to the school. At SCHS, a new sidewalk was poured near the modular classrooms.
He also said the old music room at SCJHS has been renovated.
“The capital projects are really moving along,” Denbow said.
The district will begin its second semester of its one-to-one digital learning initiative this fall, only it truly will be a fully implemented program now.
Pupils at St. Clair Elementary, including kindergartners, will get tablets featuring keyboards to help boost learning at that level. Third-through 12th-graders will get Google Chromebooks.
The initiative was rolled out during the second semester last year at the junior and senior high schools, and most of the bugs were worked out. Upper-level students who attended summer school also got to use the Chromebooks during that time.
“Incorporating the Chromebooks into our summer school program was outstanding,” Murphy said. “The students really enjoyed having them as one of their learning tools.”
As the academic year continued this past spring, fifth-grade students received Chromebooks at Murray.
“This fall should complete our full digital conversion,” Murphy said. “This technology will be utilized as a tool, not a replacement, for our current curriculum.”
The superintendent said three online guides will be used to help students throughout the academic year.
MyON is a digital literacy library that provides access to fiction and nonfiction books. Information states it is a complete literacy solution that reinvents the ways in which students and teachers interact with text. It provides anytime, anywhere access to a library of more than 7,000 enhanced digital books with multimedia supports, real-time reporting and assessments and embedded close reading tools.
The innovative digital literacy platform allows students not only to read, but to read closely, to engage with digital texts in new ways that will transform the entire learning experience.
ST Math provides individual students access to problem solving in a digital format through algebraic expressions. It is a supplemental online learning program that emphasizes visual models as a means for deepening conceptual understanding. It also incrementally transitions students from visual models to the abstract notation of numbers and symbols.
Fuel Education is a grade 6-12 tool that provides a wide range of digital resources for student and staff utilization. It is described as the “new power of learning.”
Information states the learning platform tailors curriculum for each student’s unique needs; integrates content; provides a continuous feedback loop between students, teachers and administrators; enable students to learn at their own pace at anyplace or anytime; and provides students with 21st century learning skills used in the workspace and college.
In addition, Murphy said high school students will be able to expand their knowledge by taking numerous online courses that normally would not be offered in R-XIII.
“There are so many options to expand curricular offerings,” he said. “There is a wealth of knowledge available.”
St. Clair Junior High School received a grant to set up a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lab, which allows it to offer courses in design and modeling, automation and robotics.
The school has teamed with the University of Rolla S&T, which provided training to teachers Lisa May and Courtney Pursley earlier this summer.
Principal Eric Lause said May, who taught robotics in an after-school program last year, hopes to take a team to competitions this year.
The STEM lab also will be available to high school students, and Principal Mike Hunter said he hopes students will take part in Project Lead the Way, a program that is the leading provider of rigorous, relevant and innovative STEM education curricular programs across the country.
This year, SCHS will focus on engineering by offering a course in engineer design, Hunter said.
“We hope to build on the program and offer more classes throughout the year,” he said.
After teachers reported on Monday and Tuesday this week, Wednesday is a “catch your breath” day. However, a freshman orientation is scheduled through the Link Leader program for any ninth-grader who wants to attend. It begins at 8 a.m. in the SCHS gym.
The purpose of the program is to help freshmen transition into high school and feel more comfortable in their new surroundings as the new academic year gets underway. Upperclassmen who serve as link leaders on Wednesday will maintain contact with their freshman group throughout the school year and continue to assist them and make them feel at home.
For more information, contact SCHS at 636-629-3500.
Everyone then reports on Thursday.
The only administrative changes this fall are at the junior high and high schools.
Lause was the assistant principal at the junior high a year ago. Ted Koenigsfeld, who left the junior high for a year to be an assistant principal on an intern basis at SCHS, returns to his old stomping grounds as the assistant principal.
Shaun Fanger takes over as athletic director and assistant principal at SCHS.
The district also is in its second year of implementing the Leader in Me program. The Leader in Me is a whole-school transformation model that acts like the operating system of a computer. It improves the performance of all other programs.
Based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” The Leader in Me equips students with the self-confidence and skills they need to thrive in the 21st-century economy.
The Franklin County Cooperative also is under the umbrella of the St. Clair R-XIII School District.
Editor’s note: Sarah Johnson contributed to this story.