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New school year brings changes to area classrooms
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With the return of every autumn comes the return of the school year. As certain as that fact is to parents and students, so too is the certainty that there will be more changes in the local school districts. Each year, schools are adapting and changing to meet new guidelines, to offer new programs, to update and to improve existing efforts.

This year is no different than the rest in that respect. State and federal regulations are making themselves felt and the schools are responding.

“The state common core standards have changed,” explained Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland. “The teachers have been busy training, attending workshops.”

Wisconsin has adopted Common Core State Standards for Literacy for 21 separate content areas.

“It’s going to be a lot more rigorous,” Boland continued. “Things will be started sooner, using a spiral form of teaching which begins in kindergarten and builds each year upon the subjects. It’s not something we don’t do already, but rather a change in sequence and how early you begin teaching a subject. It will affect how classes are taught, how staff evaluations are done, how much work the kids will have to do.”

According to Boland, the students will have some adjusting to do and will have to work harder than they have in the past.

At North Crawford, the standards change will be clearest in the structured study halls.

“Mrs. Day has been working on scheduling,” said Dr. Dan Davies, Superintendent of North Crawford Schools. “Study halls have response to intervention (RTI) built-in.”

RTI seeks to prevent academic failure through early intervention, frequent progress measurement, and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions for children who continue to have difficulty. It is believed that students who do not show a response to the interventions are likely (or at least more likely than students who respond) to have biologically based learning disabilities and to be in need of special education.

Changes are taking place in the school lunch program as well. The federal government has mandated changes in the nutrition guidelines as part of an effort to fight childhood obesity.

“We are looking to secure a chef to work with the staff to create new menu options,” Davies said. “Kay Teague (North Crawford’s food service director) has attended several workshops on the new guidelines.”

The new USDA school lunch rules limit the calories and portion sizes, cut fat content, increase fruit and vegetable content, and increase whole-grain options to processed starches. The USDA built the new rules around recommendations from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine.

Other changes include a 10¢ increase in school lunches for elementary and high school students at Seneca. Seneca also has three new teachers: Diane Malcolm, elementary music; Barb Fisher, middle school science; and Sara Ross, middle school special education.

North Crawford has upgraded their fiber optic backbone, switches and wireless routers for Internet and WiFi services. Improvements are being finished on the school’s track with work on the playground also being wrapped up.

With the federal PEP grant North Crawford was recently awarded, the school needs to find additional storage space for new equipment they will be purchasing. North Crawford’s Tarasa Lown recently attended a workshop on how to administer the PEP Grant program.

The Seneca School District will hold their elementary Open House from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 30. The sixth grade orientation is held the same day from 3 to 4 p.m. The Seneca School Community Picnic will be held in the school cafeteria from 3 to 5 p.m.

Seneca’s first day of school will be Tuesday, Sept. 4.

North Crawford held their Open House and Registration on Wednesday, August 22. Their first day is also on Tuesday, Sept. 4 with an early release at 1 p.m.