REEDSPORT -- With the first day of school right around the corner, the Reedsport School Board heard updates on Highland Elementary School's preparations for the 2019/20 school year and new technology coming to Reedsport Community Charter School.
During his report to the board, Superintendent Jon Zwemke announced that Chromebooks would be assigned to Reedsport Community Charter School students on registration day. Students in 7th through 12th grades will each be assigned a Chromebook to take home; it will be a learning device, though, and they are expected to take it with them to school, use it responsibly, and take proper care of it.
"The school's making sure that we've provided enough that everyone will have access," Zwemke said. "That's gonna lend itself to future projects, but the main point is that we're gonna try to increase student engagement, try to increase student accessibility, and increase the opportunities students have for learning the coming year."
The district began preparing for the change last year, outfitting two classrooms with the devices. During the trial period, teachers were encouraged to try various means of breaking the system to figure out what students might be able to do, so they could fix any gaps in security; the district also has various levels of firewalls and online safeguards. The school district has been working with its Chromebook provider to ensure everyone is safe and only accessing secure areas of the Internet.
"We're in a pretty good starting point, so I'm excited," Zwemke said.
The superintendent expects the school's culture to begin to change quickly, with the introduction of new technologies. Zwemke said use of technology to stay connected and engaged is expected to be a big change in the school. He said it'll be interesting to see how the students respond.
Zwemke also said the district plans to increase its social media presence. Since the start of the seismic retrofit at Highland Elementary School, the district's Facebook page has been posting regular updates; they hope to continue this and begin posting about activities and the students once the school year starts. The superintendent added it would be a good way to keep parents informed about their children if their schedule doesn't allow them to keep in touch with the school.
Amanda O'Brien, principal of Highland Elementary School, gave an update on the school's preparations for the school year. She recalled they held registration Tuesday and expect to enroll about 15 new students, as of Wednesday. Highland Elementary will have 40 confirmed kindergarteners, for two classrooms. Approximately 13 elementary school teachers have also been going through sheltered instruction training.
"(Sheltered instruction is) working to better instruct students using visuals and music," said O'Brien. "What that does is, if we get a student who is identified as (English Learning), part of the process in placing students is to place them with someone who's had a GLAD trained model or a SIOP trained; it's the strategy working with English Language Learners, even though the strategies are great for all students."
At this point, more than half of Highland Elementary School's staff has done one of these trainings.
O'Brien and Rachel Amos also gave their thanks to the staff members of the charter school who helped Highland manage its summer school program. While renovations have been happening at Highland, summer school classes were given room in RCCC. The board also gave accolades to Pastor Buck at the Presbyterian Church next door to the charter school for opening its playground for the younger kids.
"It was really sweet of Pastor Buck to let us use their little playground, and also I'd like to thank those teachers that offered up their classrooms for us to use," Amos said. "It was teamwork to have (the extended school year) here; but it was fun and it was successful."
Before the business of the meeting, the board elected the chair and vice-chair for the new school year. The members unanimously elected Eric Brandon for another year as chair, and Carey Jones as vice-chair. Brandon also gave the oath of office to Chuck Osmeyer as a new board member.
The next meeting of the Reedsport School Board will be September 11 at 6:30 p.m.