Greetings all, the 2017 / 18 school year is upon us!
This month, I’m thrilled to tell you about two key initiatives that will impact both the academic and social growth of our students. I will also bring you up to date with our urgent facilities set-up and planning:
- 1:1 Technology for Every Student! Three years ago, we started discussions on how best to equip EACH of our students with lap tops here at school. At the time, we had one machine per 5 students. We are thrilled to announce, that as of this month, we will finally be at that 1:1 point – where each student will have a laptop, in grades K - 12. This has taken an extreme amount of time, effort and resources to make happen. Our students and staff will benefit dramatically from this initiative. The sky is the limit from here! As we roll-out the devices, please be patient – it will take some time to work through the initial issues.
*Another impact of the 1:1 piece that secondary parents need to know – as a result of this added tech, students will no longer need to use their cell phones for school purposes. That said, students will be allowed to have cell phones on their person during the school day, but they must be in the “off position” and not out during school hours. Both before school and after school hours – cell phones may be “on” and students may use them at-will. This cell phone policy will be new for the high school students and may take some time to get used to. The attached note speaks to more of the specifics of this change. The goal is to keep the learning environment focused on just that…the learning process.
- STEAM offers hands-on learning: Our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) initiatives this year – will serve as a perfect accompaniment to our 1:1 push. In grades K - 12, our students will take part in several STEAM, real-world projects throughout the school year. Kids truly gravitate toward these projects due to the hands-on nature of these challenges. Teachers have really dug in to the STEAM curriculum and look forward to working with our students and community leaders on potential projects!
- Facilities – for the short term: The 10 trailer classrooms are here! Final permitting is complete at the Junior School’s six rooms, and the four at Crosby should be wrapped up before August 10. The trailers are a short term fix for the enrollment growth we are experiencing and the quality of construction reflect this. They are not meant to last more than 4 – 5 years, and after thousands of kids use these areas, I would hard-pressed to believe that will last longer than that. However, they do provide the urgent space needed for instruction. Another perk for those who will have classes in them - they are air-conditioned.
- Facilities – for the long term; Moving ahead with the master plan: After input from more than 1,000 community representatives, our facilities master plan calls for construction of four schools and extensive renovations to the high school. The bond issue to be included on the November 2017 ballot covers payment for the construction of these facilities. This bond will not go to ANY operation expenses. This master plan is our long-term solution to deal with overcrowded and deteriorating school buildings, for the next 50 years. We’re expecting more than 1,000 new homes in the district in the next several years, with a corresponding enrollment boom. The new buildings would replace the district’s existing junior school and all four elementary schools. A new junior school would be built near the existing Harrison Junior. Three elementary schools would be built, including at the Crosby Elementary site and another behind Harrison Elementary. The final site will be completed this month. One viable option for the third elementary is near the high school and junior school, where we own 110 acres and there are no flood-plain problems and the land is paid in full. Another option – is a location in Whitewater Township.
- In the end, our master plan would require $71.7 million in funds locally, equal to 6.99 mills. Homeowners would pay an extra $244 per year for each $100,000 in market value. Every investment has a cost and this one is no different. For us to keep the buildings we have and maintain them over the next decade, the cost is close to $54 million. Our current master plan is likely to receive state funding equal to about 32 percent of the project, which would cover the construction of one new elementary.
For more information on the facilities front – Visit: www.southwestschools.org/facilities
*August Podcast is posted at: southwestschools.org/podcast
As always, please let me know if you have comments or questions. Welcome to the new school year – lets work together to make it a successful one for all our students!
John C. Hamstra
Southwest Local Schools