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New school year starts Monday at District 50 Jt.

Parents and students can expect some changes to schools as they return on Aug. 29, the first day of classes.

Elementary school

According to Pagosa Springs Elementary School Principal Kate Lister, PSES will enhance and expand its commitment to integrating the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (based on Stephen R. Covey’s popular self-help book) into its curriculum.

“We’re one of only three schools in Colorado designated as a ‘leadership school’,” Lister said, adding that leadership would be given an emphasis this year among the school’s students.

Lister said that, since last year, students have been given a larger leadership role in the school, “Developing not rules, but expectations — how their fellow students are expected to behave in the classroom, in the halls and on the playground.”

This year, students will be adding a drama component to the leadership emphasis and, according to Lister, will be videotaping twice a week with students role-playing model behavior.

Lister added that videotaping was only one of several technological upgrades at PSES this year. With grants funding an additional Computer lab for the school, further grants have allowed to put Minio and Smart Boards into every classroom. Furthermore, third graders this year will provided with iPods in the classroom for recording and playing back lessons.

“I’m really excited about the new technology this year,” Lister said.

An open house is scheduled for each grade level. There will be no schoolwide open house this year.

Kindergarten will host an open house today, Aug. 25 between 4:30-6:30 p.m.

First grade open house is Aug. 26 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Second grade open house is Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m.

An open house for third grade is on Aug.26 at 5:30 p.m. and, for fourth grade, it will be held Aug.26 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Classes begin at 8 a.m. Monday at the elementary school.

Middle school

Following the consolidation last year of grades 5-6 and 7-8 into a unified middle school campus, Pagosa Springs Middle School Principal Chris Hinger said that transition continues this year with the office for all students located in the former junior high building (and closure of the office in the building housing grades 5-6).

Hinger wants all middle school parents to know that, if they are dropping off or picking up students after the first bell or prior to the final bell, they need to go to the new consolidated office for that purpose.

Hinger added that a schoolwide newsletter went out to all registered students and their families on Monday, Aug. 15, providing further information and will include a schedule of important events.

At the top of the newsletter is the middle school’s new mission statement: “Empowering students to navigate the future through learning.”

Hinger stated that he felt the new mission statement was important, acknowledging that middle school is potentially a precarious step between childhood and adolescence.

“I see it as transitional,” Hinger said. “But the key is involvement. The parents need to stay involved.

“While their kids are in elementary school, parents tend to be more involved, but as those kids move onto middle school, parents tend to take a more hands-off approach. They need to understand that middle school is a time to try new things, to find out what their child’s talents are and nurture that.”

Hinger said that he makes it a point to meet every student at the beginning of the year and share, with each one, the same message:

“Show up, do your best and get involved. I like to keep it simple.”

The first bell Monday is at 8:15 a.m.

High School

All Pagosa Springs High School students report to school on Monday, Aug. 29, for the first day of class. In previous years, only freshmen reported that first day (with sophomores, juniors and seniors reporting the next day) but the district has changed that policy for the 2011-2012 school year. Students not attending school on Aug. 29 will receive an unexcused absence (unless sufficient reason for the absence is provided).

PSHS is hosting freshman orientation today, Aug. 25, for students and their families.

According to PSHS Principal David Hamilton, students this year will have expanded course opportunities.

The Southwest Colorado eSchool will offer online courses to not only students enrolled at PSHS who desire curriculum not currently available in the building (i.e., Chinese language, Video Game Design, Anthropology, Digital Photography, high-level math, etc.), but also serving students required to make up courses or who can’t attend school for various reasons.

Tuition for district high school students desiring to enroll in eSchool courses is free. Information on eSchool is available at www.southwestcoloradoeschool.org.

Hamilton also said that he hopes to have a World Language program up and running by the school’s second semester. Offered through Rosetta Stone (the language-learning program used by the U.S. State Department), the program will offer any language the student desires to learn.

“No longer will we be limited to Spanish, which has been, traditionally, the only language opportunity offered in the southwest,” Hamilton said.

The expansion of curriculum opportunities is timely, Hamilton said, given the pressures and uncertainties presented by national and global economic conditions.

“We’re in a transitional time now, where things are changing very fast. No longer can a kid graduate from high school and expect to find work in some of the more traditional areas. The jobs are just not there.”

And like the principals at the other schools, Hamilton stressed that parental involvement is key to their student’s success.

“I’m trying to get parents to understand that they need to stay involved with their kid’s education, encourage parents to stay engaged, to become aware of where their kids are at in their development. They need to watch their progress as they go through high school to prepare them for a new global reality.”

Fortunately, Hamilton’s sentiment seems to be to be shared among all schools and their administrators: that entering a new century, with a new global reality, requires a new way of approaching education.

On Aug. 29, as doors open to students for a new school year, it will be up to those kids and their parents to embrace those realities and the technologies required to navigate that environment.

Breakfast is available at the high school at 7:35 a.m. Monday. The first bell is at 7:50.

jim@pagosasun.com

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