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What's new at your school?

With the 2011-12 school year fast approaching, students in River Falls are buying supplies to prepare. They aren't the only ones preparing.

The River Falls schools are gearing up for the new school year too, and there are new programs, new staff, and more at each.

River Falls High School is starting a new intramural program.

The school's athletic program is going strong, said Vice Principal in charge of Activities Rollie Hall, but there are still students who want to be involved in athletics and don't want the level of involvement required for regularly scheduled athletics.

"They just like to play the game," said Hall, "and this will give them the opportunity."

Hall said the school will start with some traditional sports like volleyball and basketball, but also some non-traditional sports like badminton, dodge ball and ultimate Frisbee.

"Our goal is to get kids more involved," said Hall.

The sports chosen are based on a survey RFHS students took last year, said Hall, and some of the popular sports were a bit surprising.

"Archery was something they were looking at," said Hall, "even trap shooting."

Hall said that while there won't be any archery or trap shooting this year, it might be a possibility someday, though obviously those clubs would have to move off campus to practice.

There are a few logistical problems for RFHS to work out, said Hall.

WIAA rules state that students participating in the high school athletics programs cannot participate in intramural sports, and Hall said places to practice are limited.

"The biggest concern we have had with this," said Hall, "is gym space."

Hall said this year's intramurals would start off with volleyball in the fall, basketball and dodge ball in the winter and kickball in the spring with some opportunities for badminton, ping pong and tennis mixed in. Depending on how this year goes, Hall said the intramural program may expand into other sports and into the middle school.

Also at RFHS this year, according to Principal Elaine Baumann, are three new classes: The audio visual class has been updated to a digital media class; swimming for fitness is a new class for students at all levels of swimming ability; and a connections class teaching students about the ways students with special needs can function in society given the proper support.

Westside Elementary School, along with the other two public elementary schools is implementing a six-day schedule. This means there will be a numbered day schedule, so classes like phy-ed will be on day two and four, for example.

This is, said Westside Principal Rita Humbert, an attempt to create more schedule consistency.

Humbert said Westside and the other public elementary schools will also be starting a literacy program for all students.

For 30 minutes every day, said Humbert, students will meet in small groups and learn reading and writing based on their own needs and goals, so the students who need challenging will be challenged, and the students who need help will get it.

Rocky Branch Elementary School has had two new SMART boards installed, giving the school one in almost every room. The landscaping and parking lot paint has also been touched up, said Chuck Eaton Rocky Branch principal.

Greenwood Elementary School's new maple tree has been planted and is growing on the Greenwood lawn.

The new tree replaces an older maple tree that had been on the Greenwood lawn since the school was built in the 1950s. The old tree was recently cut down due to safety concerns.

The bench dedicated to the late former Greenwood student Lexy VanNurden that had been around the old maple is being re-stained. It will be put back into place around the new maple by the time school starts.

St. Bridget Parish School, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has iPads for each fifth grade student, and one for each classroom K-5. Fifth grade teacher Loretta Wilbur attended a weeklong iPad training with the Apple Company, learning about applications to use with the fifth grade students.

St. Bridget Principal Sue Steckbauer said this is a way to help students with different learning styles learn better. St. Bridget also has gotten standing desks for about half of the students in fourth grade, based on parent and student input.

There will be an all school reunion on Saturday, Sept. 17, in celebration of St. Bridget's 60-year anniversary, including an open house. Steckbauer said St. Bridget's is trying especially to reach out to all of the school's alumni.

The River Falls Public Montessori Academy, housed in the same building as the River Falls Renaissance Charter Academy (below), has increased its enrollment by 20 students, which means more teachers, also listed below.

Meyer Middle School is implementing a new RTI (Response to Interventions) framework, said Principal Mark Chapin, providing support for struggling students to keep them from falling through the cracks.

Chapin said MMS is also working on improving their teacher efficacy by doing quick checks to make sure students understand the materials taught.

The River Falls Renaissance Charter Academy is adding new companies around town for its students to complete their required internships with. The school is also working with new programs at Chippewa Valley Technical College to help students reach their vocational goals.

Character Education

The middle school and the three elementary schools have been taking part in the Wisconsin character education program. Meyer Middle School received a State Promising Practice Award and Greenwood Elementary School won a National Promising Practices Award from the National Character Education Partnership for their character education efforts last year. This year all three elementary school and the middle school will continue their character education efforts.

MMS will focus on the "Everest Project," asking students to set goals, their "personal Everest" to achieve either during the course of the year, or over a longer stretch of time.

Greenwood will focus on one of the nine character education traits each month starting in September with "respect." Students will be taught formal lessons about each trait once a month, and "teachable moments" will be taken advantage of as they happen.

Rocky Branch will emphasize the nine character traits and generate enthusiasm for them. The teachers will start that off by doing a flash mob dance during the fall kickoff assembly. Students will also talk about the nine character traits in their care groups.

Westside character education this year will have the theme "Rise up With Good Character" with students learning about the nine positive character traits.

At the Renaissance character education, said Administrator Linda Berg, will continue to be taught in "real time" or as occasions to develop character arise.

Public Montessori Academy students will have discussions at class and school level to learn about good character traits like respect, compassion, honesty and responsibility.

New staff,

staffing changes

At Westside Tori Ament and Jeanne Kinney will teach kindergarten, Paula Flood will teach second grade, Jenny Gaske will teach special ed, and Andrea Ganske is a new school psychologist who will share time at Rocky Branch.

At Rocky Branch Kim Bassett will be teach first grade; Kim Spafford will be working as a teacher's aide; Tammy Ludgatis will be a teacher's aide; and Andy Cernohous will take over as head custodian. Sue O'Leary will move from budget paraprofessional to school health paraprofessional.

Joe Young will move from 4th to 5th grade, and become a looping teacher with John Gildseth covering grades 4 and 5. Ben Toppel will move from the Public Montessori Academy to teach 5th grade at Rocky Branch. Lisa Kleinschmidt is moving from 1st to 2nd grade.

Karen Sizemore is moving from kindergarten to 3rd grade and Pam Ekstrom is moving from 3rd to 1st grade. Heather Bechtold is moving from volunteer coordinator to budget paraprofessional.

The new volunteer coordinator will also coordinate the STEP program and interviews will begin Tuesday, Aug. 23.

At Greenwood, Olin Morrison will be the new counselor, and Suzanne Daggett is a paraprofessional.

At the Public Montessori Academy Maggie Watson will teach a section of lower elementary; Markell Lockwood will teach a section of upper elementary.

Sue Rothberger will move from upper elementary to lower elementary, Nate Wels will move from lower elementary to Montessori coordinator and teacher at the children's house kindergarten section.

At St. Bridget, Brian Meyer will teach third grade.

At MMS, Kirk Gednalski will teach 6 Blue House science, Shelly Vold will teach 6 Blue House language arts, Aaron Bryant will teach 7 Gold House social studies, Kate Dulaney will teach speech and language, Hillary Johnson and Becca Krenz will teach special ed, and Kim Madigan is a new health aide.

All the school principals said they look forward to another great year with their staff and students.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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