Changes coming next school year
In this article, I will highlight some of the changes being planned in offerings and programming for the 2012-2013 school year. I will also discuss some preliminary enrollment projections for the district. Finally, I will discuss issues in regard to school funding for private and home-schooled students.
A few changes in offerings and programming
This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but highlights of some of the changes. We are always trying to involve parents in the decision-making process for the school district. The district has a School Improvement Advisory Committee that meets six times a year. This group is made up of representation from parents, community, businesses and school. This is a group that is always open and we do not turn away anyone who wants to participate. We have grown the representation from parents over the last two years and certainly hope that even more will decide to participate. Anyone who wants to be a part of this committee should contact Veta Thode at 653-6543. The School Improvement Advisory Committee meetings are typically on Monday nights and we meet for 90 minutes.
We also have various sub-committees that meet to discuss particular topics. Two of those committees were the block scheduling committee and the ELP parents committee. The block scheduling concept still is not without questions as to what are best for the students. If there was a perfect schedule, everyone would have it. There are quite a variety of schedules out there. The key for us was to make sure that we keep providing more options to the students so that we can reduce conflicts in schedule. A slate of early-bird classes have been created and continues to grow. We also are exploring possibilities of having a May term or some other option. These have all come from this study group. The ELP parent discussions have been very fruitful in terms of looking at how we are delivering our talented-and-gifted services. It also led us to take a look at how we deliver math, starting on the middle school level. Instead of being grade level, we will be teaching math starting at the sixth grade based on ability level. We hope this leads us to do more competency-based teaching in other subject matters in the future. It will also allow those students who are more advanced in their abilities to move forward quicker and to be challenged.
Parents have also indicated a strong interest in providing full-day 4-year-old preschool services. We have over 30 students signed up for this new offering next year, meaning offering two sections and expansion of our preschool program. We were glad that we are able to meet the wants of our parents and appreciate the input from parents to make this happen. We will continue to offer two half-day sections for those who prefer this as well.
We are disappointed that the Kirkwood Center will not be opened until 2014, but we knew 2013 was an aggressive schedule. That is not going to stop us from continuing to expand college credit opportunities for students. At least four new courses are going to be offered to our high school students for next year. It will also be a better situation for ninth-graders next year, being a part of the high school. No more shuttles and a lot more variety of opportunities will be available to our ninth grade students as part of a four-grade high school.
We continue to work with the county attorney in developing new attendance policies. Progress on this has been slow but we want a good policy in place. We also are constantly looking at working toward addressing bullying. A new online reporting system was put in place this year. Building administrators continue to work on being responsive to these concerns. We have seen a raised awareness across the state this year to this issue. It is not a local district issue. It is an issue for all educators across the state. We will continue to be aggressive in our efforts to address the bullies in the district.
It is way too early to make accurate projections for the next school year, but I will share what I know at this time. Count day always falls on Oct. 1 of each year based on students in your buildings and living in your district. We do know that we have a sizable group of students who have moved into our district since count day. It is estimated that there are more than 50 students we are serving now than we had on count day. If the majority of these students remain in the district until Oct. 1 of next year and we don’t lose a lot of students, we could see a big enrollment increase. Now we recognize at times that this is a moving target and can shift either direction in a short period of time. We also know that kindergarten round-up numbers are well ahead of what we saw last year. That in combination with the fact that our graduating class is a smaller class than average also leads one to believe there will be an increase in enrollments. On an even more positive note, we are aware of at least eight students who had previously open-enrolled out that have indicated that they are coming back to the district. We are aware of some others who may be doing the same. That is very encouraging that we are doing some good things and others are recognizing what a quality education and programming is available in Washington.
Private School and Home School Funding
I had an interesting conversation with a patron recently where they were under the assumption that we were receiving funding for students who attend St. James. As far as the state of Iowa is concerned, these kids don’t exist. The exception to this would be the preschool program since they are considered a provider under the Washington CSD grant. There is no state funding that follows a student who attends a private institution. There are some requirements from the federal government where federal funds have to be shared with any certified private school providers, most notably, Title I funds. Private schools are dependent upon the tuition they charge to deliver services. The same is true for home school students unless they are working with their local school district through a home school assistance program. If they are working with a home school assistance program, the local district receives a .3 weighting for these students, or in other words about $1,800 per student instead of the normal $6,000. If students are not a part of a home school assistance program, there is no funding that follows the student.