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2009-10 school year brings change

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Classes start Tuesday for the roughly 3,000 River Falls K-12 students.

School principals and coordinators were asked to highlight what's changed from last year. Here's what they said:

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Elaine Baumann, high school

  • Kids Club has built a storage shed on our site for their summer program equipment storage.
  • Our work on energy conservation awareness is taking another step with the building of an "Energy Information Kiosk" in the Commons that will provide information about our photovoltaic panel and real time read-outs on its electrical production.
  • Replaced worn floor covering in the music hallway
  • Will be offering the first in a series of Project Lead the Way courses at our school. This is nationally recognized pre-engineering curriculum for high school students that's recognized for advanced standing in many engineering schools.
  • We have a new updated television studio with the latest TV production capabilities.
  • We added another baseball field and a concession stand on our campus, all through memorials and fundraising donations.
  • We received a Wisconsin Creative Arts Board grant for $10,000 for a permanent environmental-themed artwork for our Commons area. The grant is funded by the state of Wisconsin.

    Mike Johnson, Meyer middle school

  • We have a new assistant principal, Mr. Mark Chapin, a 1990 River Falls High School grad. Mark has been in the office working with staff, policies, and data as much as possible and will be a tremendous fit for Meyer. His impact on getting to know as many 6th grade students as possible is also impressive.
  • New schedule that has eight periods instead of nine. Many teams/teachers will be flexibly modifying their schedules for the benefit of students, resulting in increased instructional time.
  • Lunch Schedule is reduced from 42 to 30 minutes, resulting in more instructional time for students. The change is the result of two things: Staff and administration felt that increased class time would benefit students; secondly, in studies and surveys of the most respected and high-achieving state middle schools, almost all had only 30 minutes of lunch.
  • Reward Day/Activity Day Changes: We will have a different focus for the kids, based on changes from our Discipline Committee and administration. There will only be a September Reward Day, and Activity Days will be spread out strategically later in the quarter.
  • Focus on the Mission and Instruction, providing a rigorous and relevant curriculum while personalizing the learning as much as possible.
  • School and district website: Soon, the district and school websites will be uniform in appearance and information.
  • New Offerings: Spanish 6/7/8, replacing French and Japanese, and Language Arts Publishing 7, which will involve building house newspapers and articles, and Portfolio 8 ("wRite of Passage") a new language arts class for 8th graders.
  • Attendance Policy: District-wide, our changes will be shared with parents on Back-to-School Night.

    Linda Berg, Renaissance Academy

    This will be my second year at Renaissance Academy. We (the staff, students and parents) look forward to incorporating new learning opportunities and reaching new horizons. Our main goal this year is to focus on program growth while continuing to personalize learning. A few highlights for the new school year include:

  • Upgrading our technology and infusing Smooth Boards in all the classrooms -- that helps the teachers provide interactive instruction in the Day Program
  • Incorporating additional curriculum options to the Knight Program
  • Focusing on service learning and giving back to the community, which includes a new scholarship opportunity entitled: Service Learning Scholarship developed by the Rotary/Kiwanis/ Lions Club

    Chuck Eaton, Rocky Branch

    I am happy to let everyone know that, over the course of the summer break, Rocky Branch has made several improvements to the building and grounds.

    Inside we have added shiny new tile to several rooms to help us keep the classroom areas neat and clean.

    Likewise in areas where movement noise can be a problem, we were able to replace carpeting, providing students with the best instructional environment possible.

    Several new SMART boards were added to classrooms and specialist areas providing students and their teachers with some of the best instructional technology available.

    I would like to thank all the parents and the Rocky Branch PTO for helping our school to purchase the SMART boards for every classroom. It has been about a three-four year phased-in process, but we finally accomplished our goal.

    Without the financial help from our PTO, we would not have been able to make this incredible technology available to all students.

    Outside the building, our maintenance crew has done a wonderful job making our grounds look clean, tidy and ready for the return of our students and families.

    We have had several volunteers help with the flowers and with the upgrading of our rain garden. With all the recent rainfall, our grass looks beautiful and the garden has had quite a workout.

    I am also happy to announce that there has been very little to no turnover in staff this year.

    The warm, welcoming staff from last year will be ready to greet the eager students and families on Orientation Day, Tuesday, Sept. 1.

    It will be great to see familiar faces and we look forward to welcoming new families to the beginning of a new school year.

    Mike Ballard, Westside Elementary School

    I would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new staff to the Westside Family. We feel very fortunate to have such quality people join our team.

    Due to a significant spike in kindergarten enrollment, we've added a fourth section at Westside. Our new kindergarten teacher will be Anne Pohlman, a first-year teacher from Viterbo University.

    Shelly Schmitz will serve as our new health aide. Shelly has prior experience in a similar role and lives in New Richmond.

    Joining our office staff is River Falls High School graduate Jacinda Campbell. Jacinda will also lend her support to our kindergarten staff.

    Westside families will soon get to know Cortney Hauschildt very well. Cortney will be our new volunteer coordinator.

    Cortney knows her way around Westside as a parent, volunteer and substitute.

    Terese Kunick is going to be our new school psychologist. This will be her first experience and we know our families and staff are going to admire what she brings to our district.

    As is the case every year, our custodial crew of Dave Gunnes and Dana Pruitt has done a miraculous job of getting our building ready. Westside looks immaculate.

    I would also like to thank Karen Deslauriers for taking such wonderful care of Mary's Garden this summer.

    New lights were installed in our classrooms over the summer.

    Additionally, we had a new fire-alarm system installed that will surely grab everyone's attention!

    In saving the best for last, I want to thank the Westside PTO for their support in implementing SMART boards in the rest of our classrooms. Without their support we would never have reached our goal of having interactive whiteboards in every classroom.

    Westside staff is looking forward to welcoming back students and their parents at our annual Orientation Day, this Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We are excited to reestablish those personal contacts and to begin what promises to be an incredible year!

    Nate Schurman, Montessori, Greenwood

    The River Falls Public Montessori Elementary (RFPME) will start the school year with an all-time high enrollment of 85 students.

    To accommodate our students we have added a second Children's House (kindergarten) section and have named longtime teacher Melina Papadimitriou the RFPME coordinator.

    Papadimitriou will teach the 2nd Children's House section half time and coordinate the RFPME program half time. A children's House aide position was also added.

    Taking her place in the Lower Elementary (grades 1,2,3) classroom will be Ben Toppel, who complements the school's strong focus on "community building, enthusiasm for learning, social justice and respect for the environment."

    The Montessori program now has two kindergarten classes. It's Upper Elementary (4th-6th grades) has shifted to the lower level of the River Falls Academy.

    Orientation is Tuesday: Children's House, 8:30-11 a.m. (no busing or lunch); Elementary, 8:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. (regular busing and lunch).

    Greenwood is excited to announce the addition of Jamie Follstad to our 5th grade teaching team. Jamie comes to us from Westside Elementary school as a result of Westside losing one 5th grade section from last year.

    Greenwood continues to integrate more technology to the school. This year we will add nine interactive whiteboards to its classrooms, leaving only two classrooms without this technology.

    The Greenwood PTO deserves much of the credit for these advances as without them, we would not have had the resources to make these purchases.

    Be sure to check the front page of the Journal's C Section for pictures and brief profiles of the school district's six new teachers.

    Sue Steckbauer, St. Bridget Parish School

    There has been a lot going on at St. Bridget Parish School this summer in preparation for the 2009-2010 academic year.

    Promethean boards (interactive white boards) have been placed in the kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms and the teachers attended a two-day training on how to best implement in the classroom; a software management program that will allow the parents to access student grades, assignments, attendance, etc., as well as manage student data for the office staff and teachers has been implemented.

    Also, a new innovative reading series for kindergarten through second grade was purchased; a Spanish teacher for pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade was hired to bring the language and culture to life.

    Pre-K will have 30 minutes of Spanish per week; kindergarten through third grade will have one hour per week; and grades 4 and 5 will have 90 minutes per week.

    We have also made physical improvements: A new energy-efficient boiler was installed; the parking lot blacktopped; and new lighting added to parts of the building.

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