Prep for new year underway

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

Editor’s note: A second article on summer readiness at the individual schools will appear in Friday’s edition of The Tribune.

While students may not have school on their mind, except when they see the quickly emerging back-to-school signs going up in area stores, the same cannot be said for leaders in area school systems, who have been working all summer to prepare for the 2016-17 school year.

Each of the school administrators and area department directors for Elkin City Schools updated the board of education during its recent meeting on how things are going this summer and what will be coming in the new school year.

The maintenance division has been continuing its upgrade of the school system’s lights to LEDs, reported John Altemueller, maintenance director. He said now completed are the entire middle school building, the high school gym floor area, the auditorium lobby area and the football field house area, leaving just the locker room level of the gym left to upgrade. The school system will qualify for rebates from Duke Energy to help offset some of the costs of upgrading, he explained.

Altemueller said work also is being done along Market Street on the back side of Elkin Elementary School to repair and clean up an area which has been riddled with erosion problems in the past. “We’ve buried pipes and cleaned up the kudzu and they are sowing grass,” he said, adding that on the campus the junipers were overgrown in places, so those also have been removed and replaced with sown grass. Fresh mulch has been added to the playgrounds and most of the flower beds as well.

“At the high school, we’ve painted the weight room. It was horrible with flaking paint, and all the glass mirrors had cracks, so we have ordered plexiglass mirrors which are safer,” he said.

Elkin Middle School also has been getting some work, with a new chiller installed for the HVAC system. Altemueller said the classroom units which were scheduled to be installed this summer won’t be coming before school starts though, which will delay the installation until next summer. This means the school will be operating with a new chiller and old controls until the new unit is installed, which means “losing out on 10 months’ worth of efficiency.”

Barbara Long, career and technical education director, explained during her presentation, students at the high school will have two new courses available to them this year — sports and entertainment marketing, which has been offered some time in the past, and food II tech, a new course.

“We are enrolling more students in Surry Community College,” Long added. “That’s been one of my goals all along. Our small school system is able to meet the needs of its students. We have 21 students already registered for the fall just for CTE classes at SCC.”

She added that there has been enough interest to bring Nursing Assistant courses to be taught for the first time at The Elkin Center of Surry Community College.

Also, where CTE saved where it had a teacher leave, the department was able to update all of the appliances in the foods classrooms, Long said.

Elkin City Schools has been named the recipient of a $39,000 Armfield grant for its eighth year, reported Cynthia Altemueller, chief academic officer. “This year it will be split between family literacy and MakerSpace implementation,” she reported, adding that through the years the school system has been awarded close to $300,000 for its family literacy program to help aid Limited English Proficient families.

Last year, the elementary school MakerSpace was created with part of the funding, so this year it will be the middle and high schools who will see part of the funding. “The beauty of MakerSpace is our family literacy parents and students can use this space too, and I’ve spoken with some business leaders who want to bring their employees in for team building in our MakerSpace,” said Altemueller.

She also gave an update on planned professional development training days scheduled, with one being to learn a new learning management system called Canvas, which will allow teachers, parents and students to access the program to find lessons, grades, quiz grading, education resources and links and much more.

For the child nutrition services, Director Debbie McCoin reported, “I’m happy to say child nutrition is in the black. We worked very hard this year, and the staff did a wonderful job getting us to where we are.”

She said the department plans to increase student participation in the child nutrition program as much as it can in the coming school year. “We are going to try some new recipes and let the students sample them. Elkie the Elf will be back this year,” McCoin said.

One of the major influences in the 2015-16 budget being in the black, McCoin said, was an increase in reimbursable trays, with breakfast being up 9,800 trays, many of which were at the middle school.

“We offered a breakfast concession in the lobby of the auditorium, because [the middle-schoolers] weren’t going to the high school cafeteria. Also, Ms. Morrison [EMS principal] started an addition break where they could come in like the high school has a second break,” McCoin explained.

In a brief technology update, Britt Shaw, chief technology officer, explained that students are using the bandwidth provided by the school system better each year. He also added the school system will be shifting to Windows 10 this summer, with support for Windows 7 having officially ended last year. A server update also is being done this summer.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood

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