Building principals in the Meramec Valley School District are putting the finishing touches on a new handbook that will guide students through the 2012-13 school year.
Preliminary approval was given at the April 18 school board meeting to eight different versions of the district-student-parent handbooks, one for each building and program. Any last-minute policy changes made over the next two months will be added before the books are printed.
The review comes as the district and its 10 campuses plan to print and distribute 5,125 handbooks.
Other handbooks will be put together for specialty programs, such as food services and transportation. Those will be approved in May, still in time for the August start of school.
The parent-student handbook committees hammered out the language for the different handbooks — each is age and building appropriate — including high school, eighth grade, middle school, elementary school, Community School, Early Childhood Center, school age childcare (SACC) and district activities.
Although actual print dates vary, the district expects the handbooks to be in the students’ hands on the first day of school, according to Janet Hubbard, assistant superintendent.
Students also serve on the high school handbook committee.
“Every junior on Student Council serves on the handbook committee,” said Jeff Adams, Pacific High School assistant principal and handbook chair. “This year there are nine juniors on the committee, all happen to be girls.”
Students are urged to speak up at committee meetings.
“Of course they can’t change anything set by state law, DESE (state education department) or school district policy,” Adams said. “But that leaves a lot they can influence.”
Big items on the minds of students are dress code and use of cellphones and other technology devices during school hours.
Currently, cellphones and tablets can only be used in the cafeteria during breakfast and at the student’s assigned lunch period.
“A frequent request is to be able to text in the classroom when no instruction is going on, but that is still not allowed,” Adams said.
High school students receive their handbooks at the first advisory day of each school year, which is usually the second full day of school. The teacher goes over the contents of the book with students and students are asked to sign it.
Every staff member at the high school uses the handbook to help students navigate schedules and follow the rules.
“Discipline is a good example of where the handbook comes into play,” Adams said. “When there is a discipline situation the first thing I do is grab the handbook and make sure the student has his or her handbook. I ask the student, ‘Did you know this was in the handbook?’ Most of the time they do know and they know what the consequences can be.”
Having a book in hand that spells out what students can and cannot do, as well as the schedule of school activities and fun days, helps establish student expectations, according to Hubbard.
“Elementary school teachers go over the contents, page by page, with the older students to make sure they know what’s in there,” she said. “There are many things in there that parents also need to know.”
Eighth-grade and high school students receive a planner at the beginning of the school year and the handbook is an integral part of the planner.
“What is especially important for students in grades six through 12 is the expectations piece,” Hubbard said. “This is the way we run things.”
Schedules also are included, as are parties and purple and white days.
Although the district provides the handbooks, if a student loses it, he or she is expected to replace it.
Students will have the new handbooks in their hands the first day of class.
The content of all of the handbooks are on the district website as well.
Handbook committee chairs are as follows:
Pacific High School — Jeff Adams;
Riverbend School — Ketina Armstrong;
Meramec Valley Middle School — Larry Carter;
Elementary School — Linda Pahl;
Meramec Valley Community School — Lynn Queensen;
Meramec Valley Early Childhood Center — Lisa Weirich;
District Activities — Andy Herbst; and
SACC Handbook — Lisa Weirich.