‘An exciting time’ as school year begins

08/11/2014 12:17 AM

08/13/2014 12:34 PM

Classrooms are prepped, hallway floors polished, buses fueled up and teachers ready for the start of another year at the state’s largest school district.

“One of the great things about education is you get to start fresh every year – kids, teachers, parents – so that’s kind of unique,” said Wichita superintendent John Allison. “It’s an exciting time.”

Tuesday is the first day of school for more than 51,000 students in Wichita public schools. Sixth- and ninth-graders will attend a half-day orientation Monday.

Most of the area’s suburban school districts also will begin classes this week.

Allison, starting his fifth year as superintendent, says the Wichita district will continue to emphasize literacy — including a renewed focus on decoding in early grades — and reading and writing for general comprehension.

Math instruction, too, has evolved over the past several years and will continue to change as Wichita transitions to Common Core State Standards, Allison said. More difficult concepts, such as algebra, will be introduced at earlier ages, and certain subjects will receive a more in-depth look than in previous years.

“We’ll change somewhat on a yearly basis just because, as our primary kids develop those skills, they’ll be able to do more as they progress,” he said.

Some other developments as the district starts another school year:

All Wichita schools have finished training on the Multi-Tier System of Supports, a system that, combined with Safe & Civil Schools, involves teaching strategies and behavior management plans that are consistent throughout the district.

“It should now be part of our (school) culture, just the way we do business,” Allison said. “This year is really our chance to start fine-tuning and making adjustments.”

More construction projects will wrap up this year, and officials expect a fall groundbreaking for the largest project of the 2008 bond issue: a new Southeast High School, at Pawnee and 127th East.

In coming weeks the district will celebrate the completion of a $12.7 million addition at West High School, a $2 million addition to Mead Middle School, $1.4 million worth of additions and renovations to Marshall Middle School, and $5 million in repairs and upgrades to College Hill Elementary, which was damaged by fire last year.

As part of the bond issue, more than 90 percent of Wichita schools now have Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved storm shelters. The rest will be completed over the next year or two, Allison said.

Cafeterias at at least four Wichita schools should be more comfortable, colorful and efficient this fall, after school board members approved $500,000 worth of improvements aimed at speeding up lunch lines and increasing participation.

And if you plan to visit or volunteer at a Wichita public school this year, have your driver’s license ready. This month and next, the district plans to implement the Hall Pass visitor management system, which scans visitors’ driver’s licenses and checks them against a nationwide database of sex offenders.

The district continues to roll out $3 million worth of security upgrades, approved by board members last year, which include controlled-access doors, buzz-in entrances, new cameras and other surveillance equipment.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

Suburban school district schedules

Andover: Wednesday, grades 1-6, 9th grade and new students; Thursday, first day of class for all other students

Derby: Thursday, elementary school and new students; Friday, first day of class for all other students

Haysville: Tuesday, grades K-6, 9th grade and new high school students; Wednesday, first day of class for all other students

Goddard: Monday and Tuesday, 9th grade; Aug. 19, first day of class for all other students

Maize: Tuesday, grades 1-6 and 9th grade; Wednesday, first day of class for all other students

Wichita Catholic schools: Classes start Wednesday.

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