Thanks to cooperative prep, WCSD off to a good start

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Owen Trumbull waits his turn as Cody Arnold fills up at the water cooler at Eisenhower Middle High School cafeteria Wednesday. The school’s water system is not expected to be approved for drinking and cooking until Friday afternoon.

There are always hiccups on the first day of school, but, in general, Warren County School District’s 2018-2019 school year started well.

“The first day of school has a certain set of ‘knowns’,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “Students are busy managing new school supplies, shoes, outfits, and lunch boxes. Buses will run slower than usual while drivers and staff double- and triple-check rosters. The weather will be hot and humid.”

The buses and vans that move the district’s students travel over 9,800 miles per day, she said.

“Our staff did an amazing job making sure our buildings and classrooms were ready for today,” she said. “They make it look easy, but there are countless hours of planning and preparation by many people to be ready for the first day of school.”

Among the many tasks Stewart credited that led up to a successful first day were:

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry A new shipment of water is stacked and ready for delivery to classrooms at Eisenhower Middle High School toward the end of the first day of school Wednesday. The school’s water system is not expected to be approved for drinking and cooking until Friday afternoon.

¯ “Rooms and buildings are clean;

¯ building systems ready for student use;

¯ curricular materials ordered, delivered, and ready to go;

¯ new staff members hired and ready to begin;

¯ technology improvements in place;

¯ grounds and playgrounds ready for use;

¯ new menus and food choices for breakfast and lunch;

¯ many hours spent with parents preparing for the start of school; and

¯ exciting and engaging lessons ready for students.”

Ike water

Final preparation was particularly challenging at Eisenhower, where a water pump failure late last week meant the water system in the building could not be used at all until Tuesday.

The water in the building was not suitable for flushing through the sewer system until Tuesday and the water is still not approved for drinking and cooking.

“DEP requires longer testing for drinking water,” Principal Ericka Alm said.

She said the district hopes the building’s water will be drinkable by Friday afternoon.

The district sent shipments of bottled water to the building multiple times Wednesday after making sure bottled water was in place to start the day and there were also water coolers in use in the building. “We’ve been having close communication on how much water we need,” Alm said.

Temperatures near 90 on Wednesday — Stewart’s prediction was spot on — made access to water even more critical than usual.

Schedule change

Students across the district were getting used to changes brought on by education reform.

“The kids are getting used to the new schedule,” Alm said.

The school day started earlier and ended later.

Middle and high school schedules now include seven periods. “This was a significant change,” Alm said.

At Eisenhower, the change simplified the bell schedule dramatically. “We were running four different bell schedules,” she said. “Now, the whole middle high school is on the same schedule.”

The change includes a “building-wide” advisory time. “The opportunity is, teachers put out ideas of things they would like to offer — robotics, strength training, jewelry-making, French,” Alm said. “The kids are excited about some of the opportunities.”

She said many fewer students than usual ate breakfast at the school on Wednesday, and said it is possible that the shortened home room period was the cause. “I’m hoping with more communication, we can get it going,” she said. “We need them to get used to it. As soon as they get off the bus, if they’re hungry, they should be going right into the cafeteria for breakfast.”

Class size adjustment

The district quickly effected a change approved by the school board on Monday. An additional section of kindergarten was created in the central attendance area as a class-size-reduction effort after federal Title VI funds were approved. That change brought the average central attendance kindergarten class size from 24 to 21.