TRCS principals share optimism, excitement for new school year

THREE RIVERS — Monday was the first day of the 2019-20 school year for Three Rivers Community Schools, with a half-day for students and staff. With that first day comes a renewed optimism for everybody, including the principals of the district’s schools.
One source of optimism for some of the principals was enrollment levels. David Soderquist, principal at Hoppin Elementary, said in an email interview with the Commercial-News his enrollment levels are up from last year, which he said helps out some of their services.
“With higher enrollment we are continuing our paraprofessional support in Kindergarten classes,” Soderquist said.
Three Rivers High School Principal Carrie Balk said in an email interview with the Commercial-News that TRHS has 45 new enrollees for the 2019-20 school year, but other principals said in email interviews with the Commercial-News their enrollment levels have more or less stayed consistent from year to year.
“We are full in several grade levels,” Andrews Elementary Principal Ben McIntyre said. “It’s been great having a consistent enrollment and the staff continues to look forward to full classes and doing all that we can for students.”
Many principals said they are excited for the new language arts and science curriculums being rolled out in the district. In June, the TRCS Board of Education approved Amplify Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) for elementary schools and Amplify Science for the middle school.
According to a presentation given at a Board of Education meeting in May, Amplify CKLA “uses a fundamentally different approach” with English, using content knowledge and foundational -skills, while Amplify Science uses real world problems linked to science phenomena, as well as collaborative discussion opportunities, using hands-on activities, digital simulations, and physical and digital materials.
Soderquist also mentioned Hoppin’s rollout of the Daily 5 program, a literacy framework that, according to the program’s website, “instills behaviors of independence, creates a classroom of highly engaged readers, writers, and learners, and provides teachers with the time and structure to meet diverse student needs.” The program focuses on five tasks students can do during a period of time: Reading to themselves, working on writing, reading to someone, word work, and listening to reading.
“Daily 5 is a fantastic way to support reading and writing in our classes,” Soderquist said.
Norton Elementary Principal Jen Graber said their school is “digging deeper” into social-emotional learning, and finding kids strengths in leadership. Graber said she’s excited that the staff is focusing on “the whole child” through both behaviors and emotions as well as academics.
“In the lower elementary we are focused on learning more and incorporating conscious discipline. It’s an approach to giving younger children the words they need to express their emotions and how to be able to self-regulate,” Graber said. “In the upper elementary, our students are practicing restorative justice. We piloted [the program] last year with our fourth grade, who are now fifth graders, and we hope to expand that to our 4th grade this year.”
There are other new interesting things the principals say they are looking forward to implementing, as well, including what Soderquist called “flexible seating options” at Hoppin, and Language Arts Teacher Tiffany Horne taking over the “Purple Pride” adviser position at the high school.
“She’ll be working with a group of students interested in promoting Wildcat pride,” Balk said. “They will also be organizing volunteer opportunities for students both within the school and the community.”
The principals said they are looking forward to working with students and staff for the upcoming year, as well as working with families.
“I am looking forward to our community times together,” Park Elementary Principal Kevin Faraci said. “We have an opportunity for students to come together to sing, share and learn.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting the new students coming into Young 5’s and kindergarten and continuing to strengthen our parent-school relationships,” McIntyre said.
Some principals discussed some of the technological improvements coming to their schools this year. Over at Hoppin, Soderquist said their building was re-wired over the summer and got a Wi-Fi upgrade, while at Norton, Graber said weekly family announcements will be soon be done via video instead of printed newsletters.
“We hope that this approach will hook more families into becoming informed through this form of media versus our old boring printed newsletters,” Graber said.
Some principals mentioned some challenges that they might face coming into the school year. McIntyre mentioned the challenge of getting students to come to class everyday as being a major challenge.
“Students can’t learn if they don’t come consistently,” McIntyre said. “This year we are having several attendance challenges as well as incentives for the students to come every day.”
However, most principals saw more opportunities than challenges coming into the year.
“We will be very much focusing on College and Career Readiness using the National College and Career Readiness Indicators,” Balk said.
“We have challenges all the time. It’s how we receive a challenge that drives our success,” Graber said. “Team Norton, children, staff, and families can work through anything.”
Overall, the principals say they are optimistic for the school year.
“I’m excited to have staff and students back in the building,” Balk said. “It’s going to be a great year!”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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