by Lorie Lewis Ham
Recently KRL chatted with Kings Canyon Unified School District Administrator of Student Services Mary Carousso about new things happening at KCUSD as the new school year begins, and why they changed the start time for this school year.
Lorie: Why are KCUSD schools starting late this year and how may that affect school holidays?
Mary: We are starting later because there was general agreement that it’s much hotter in August than it is in June. It just makes more sense to try to keep the kids out of the sweltering heat…..can’t avoid the heat altogether, but this was just a logical move. [The students] still get three weeks vacation at Christmas, but only Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off Thanksgiving week.
Lorie: What are some new things happening in the Kings Canyon Unified School District this year?
1) District wide we are implementing a new state adopted English Language Arts curriculum, K-12. The great thing is that it includes instructional materials for our English Language Development programs, which are required by law, for our second language learners. In the past, these materials were from a different publisher, which worked….but was not exactly aligned with the content being taught at the time in the core English classes. This new adoption will align much more directly, the content going on in the English (or Reading) class, with the content kids see in their English Language Development class.
The new program also offers levels of instruction for strategic intervention, to serve kids who are 1 to 2 years behind grade level. In our middle schools and high schools, it offers story choices that are at the “challenge” level and stories that are at the “accessible” level. Teachers don’t have to go looking for extra support materials to reach their struggling learners or to push their higher learners. The materials are all part of one program, so that students at a variety of levels are experiencing similar themes and content, while being pushed to work toward grade level standards….or higher. Lots of training is going on for staff. We started last spring and are continuing the week prior to school starting.
2) Reedley Middle College High School is a new adventure that allows a high school to operate on the Reedley College campus, and ultimately allows students progressing through the 9th-12th grades (when fully implemented) to access college classes free of charge, AND earn college credit! The emphasis will be upon the agriculture and entrepreneurship areas, I believe. There will be a small group of ninth graders starting this fall, and we hope to see the program blossom.
3) The district’s first School Based Health Center should open in November 2012. It is under construction on the backside of the Jefferson School campus. The joint venture with Adventist Health is a first for that medical organization, and if successful, may be a direction they continue to explore further. The goal of school based health centers is to bring health care to children WHERE THEY ARE……at school sites! This particular project was the result of a federal HRSA grant for $500,000, which this district has matched with related health care funding sources.
The parents in this district repeatedly demonstrate a high trust in their schools and many will seek resources and help from school sites, based upon that established trust, that they may not seek out elsewhere. Growing issues related to asthma, obesity, and diabetes in our students can impede student learning, and have lifelong consequences for our kids. School Based Health Centers have operated in larger districts in our county (Fresno Unified, Clovis Unified), but this is a first for the eastern portion of the county. Adventist Health will serve as the contracted provider in one suite, and KC-Kids, the district’s at-risk infant program and autism service provider will occupy the second suite. The long-range goal is to include other resources and services to parents (mental health services, family counseling, etc.) in the training room located in the KC-Kids suite. The California School Health Center Association has been a terrific advocate, support, and guide on this journey.
4) Transitional Kindergarten is in full effect now. Last year KCUSD ran a pilot program, but this year, all November 2007 babies through December 2, 2007 can only enroll for TK. The goal of that program is to ensure that students are truly developmentally ready for Kindergarten the following year. The intent then, is to spread the exposure to Kindergarten content standards, over the course of 2 years. Since the November/December kids are only 4 years old on opening day, they can be (generally speaking) at a distinct disadvantage developmentally. The goal of this program is to bring students through the standards, with instructional strategies that are much more geared to their developmental state. The program was very successful in 2011-12, and will continue to build on that momentum. There will be one classroom in Orange Cove again, and two in Reedley, if enrollment holds true to previous year.
KRL looks forward to many more KCUSD articles this new school year and a whole new team of RHS student reporters. Watch for more back to school related articles in the current issue.