By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — The next few weeks will mark the start of the school year for many local school corporations, and arriving along with the new school year are a number of changes and additions that returning students are sure to notice.
Included among those schools with some significant changes coming this year is Bethany Christian Schools, whose new school year begins Friday.
“The big change for us is in technology with our Digital Competence Initiative where we’re adding iPads for all the students in grades four and five and MacBook Air laptops for grades six through 12,” said Bethany Christian Principal Allan Dueck. “We’ve actually been doing almost two years of piloting for the program, so we’ve really tried to do our due diligence.”
In addition to the new technology initiative, another big change at Bethany Schools this year will be a strengthening and reshaping of the enrichment courses in the lower grades as well as a new music initiative involving grades four and five.
“With the new music program, the students in grades four and five will all be taking an instrument beginning this year,” Dueck said. “Fourth graders will all be taking a string instrument as a class, so that’s a big change. Then the fifth grade will get to choose between stringed and other band instruments. And we’re actually providing the instruments — they’ll be included with tuition — so that’s really exciting.”
For Goshen Community Schools, the most notable change this school year will likely involve a re-arranged schedule for sixth grade students.
“Rather than having four teachers for core areas, students will have only two teachers for the core areas, one that will teach Math/Science and one that will teach Language Arts/Social Studies,” said GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth. “The hope is that this will help sixth graders make the transition more effectively to the middle school, going from one teacher in fifth grade to multiple teachers at the middle school.”
Woodworth also pointed to some new school day extensions set to go into effect this school year as another notable change.
“The elementary schools will have a longer day by a half hour, thus increasing instructional time,” Woodworth said. “The middle school will have 12 more minutes each day of instructional time and the high school will have eight more minutes a day. These changes also helped make the transportation routes more effective.”
Goshen students will return for the kickoff of their new school year this Friday.
Also looking at some significant changes this year is the Wawasee Community School Corporation, whose new school year begins Aug. 13.
According to Wawasee Superintendent Tom Edington, among the biggest changes for the corporation this year is the addition of a new Marine Trades program.
“That’s focusing on boats and engines and electrical systems for those boats, in addition to the trailer and the actual exterior so that students will learn how to replace decks on a pontoon, for example, or do the fiberglass repair on a boat of that type,” Edington said of the program. “In addition, they will also learn to winterize boats, which is something they’ll need to know if they gain employment in a local marina. We have 10 within a half-hour drive, so we feel that’s a program that will fill a need.”
Edington noted that the corporation will also be adding a new human physiology class as part of its Science Technology Engineering and Math curriculum, or STEM, and will continue its push toward greater use of technology is all classrooms.
“Schools have adapted very well to technology use for administrative and teacher purposes to help us be more efficient in our operation,” Edington said, “and we’re really planning to work this year with our teachers and students to make greater use of technology with those students.”
According to Middlebury Community Schools Superintendent Jane Allen, among the biggest changes to have occurred for her corporation over the summer is the addition of a new cafeteria line at the middle school.
“The only place where there will be any changes that are really noticeable are at the middle school where we’ve changed the cafeteria a little bit by adding another line for point of service, so that means the cafeteria should run a little bit smoother,” Allen said. “Students should probably notice that we’ve added another wall in there, and have some new kitchen equipment.”
Allen also noted that the middle school will sport new chillers for the students returning this fall.
“New chillers means a new cooling system, which will make it more comfortable,” Allen said, “so they should definitely notice that.”
The first day back for Middlebury students will be Aug. 14.
Over at Clinton Christian School, a new digital sign will greet students as they arrive back for the new school year Aug. 14.
“We’re getting a new digital sign, which is pretty cool, and lots of new updates and upgrades all throughout the school,” said Michele Vigil, advancement director at the school. “We’re updating an enormous amount of our technology. For example, we just got all new whiteboards for the classrooms. So it’s going to be a really exciting year.”
And according to Vigil, there should be plenty of students in attendance to take advantage of those new updates.
“Our enrollment has increased considerably,” Vigil said, “and our preschool program is just exploding. It’s just a blast.”
Also looking at a few notable additions this year is the West Noble School Corporation, which will open its doors to incoming students Aug. 19.
“At the high school we’re moving to what we call Mastery Math, which requires that students to get a B or higher on their current math section before moving on to the next section,” said West Noble Superintendent Dennis VanDuyne. “They’re tested periodically, so they’ll take tests every six weeks or so I believe, and in order to move on to the next section, they need to get at least 80 percent mastery. So some kids may finish a course very quickly, and some may take three or four tries. But the end goal is of course to ensure mastery at each level.”
And for the soccer fans at West Noble, VanDuyne noted that the corporation is currently working on the installation of new soccer fields, though they will likely not be usable by the students until 2014.
“We are in the process of adding some soccer fields, but they’re not going to be ready this fall,” VanDuyne said. “We’ll be seeding them this fall, and the kids will be able to use them next spring.”