For the Carson City School District, much of 2016 will be aimed at strengthening, changing and adding programming in an attempt at improving student education.
Much of the school district’s programming is based on the 2011 strategic plan, designed to help student improvement and achievement, and educator effectiveness.
Each middle school and Carson High School all received a uniformed Carson City deputy to have a presence on campus during the school day to help protect students.
The Carson City Sheriff’s Department was awarded a $375,000 grant in October from the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing to be able to hire School Resource Officers for Carson City schools. This allows the sheriff’s office to take three deputies from patrol and put them in the schools full-time for three years, with funding aid from the federal government.
“We want to create relationships to enhance schools,” said Sheriff Ken Furlong. “It is like stranger danger, how do we expect our students to trust an officer if you don’t know them?”
The program started Dec. 11, with officers in the schools for about a week before students left for winter break.
Superintendent Richard Stokes said the district hopes having the officers in the schools will help students make better decisions.
“This program will hopefully help to dissuade drug use, graffiti and property damage,” Stokes said. “We are also hoping it will provide a more secure feeling of well-being for students and parents.”
Stokes said it should help Furlong’s goal to make officers more approachable to students.
“It helps students see uniformed officers and know them by name to see them as a support and recognize them as a resource,” Stokes said.
Through 2016, the school district and a School Resource Officer Advisory Board will be monitoring and assessing the program to make sure it is achieving its safety goals.
“We will watch for obvious changes such as safety-related events that happen at school from fights and arguments to confrontations,” Stokes said. “We are just grateful for the support to the schools.”
The school district also opened a new school-based health center in October in an attempt to help students and their families who may not have access to healthcare.
“We developed this in partnership with Nevada Health Centers with the goal of taking sick children and getting them back to school,” Stokes said. “We are looking to see the impact that this center will have.
The new center is located at 618 Musser St, behind the Gleason School. It provides services such as health and wellness, child checks, sick visits, physicals, immunizations and health management.
Center hours will be Tuesday and Thursday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and most insurance is accepted.
CHANGES IN THE DISTRICT
One big change that the school district is planning for is the loss of the Race to the Top grant in the summer of 2017.
The district received $10 million from the grant in 2011 to try to deepen student learning, improve student achievement and educator effectiveness. The money was used to hire a variety of educators to help establish a uniform curriculum for all middle and high school students in Carson City. The grant helped the district create a uniform curriculum and assessment in English, math, science and social studies so that all students are guaranteed to learn the same fundamentals in all classes.
The district is now trying to implement these same curriculum strategies in the elementary schools.
“The Race to the Top grant began as a secondary initiative but because it has been successful in student performance and we want to take those concepts and apply them to the elementary level,” Stokes said. “It is important because it ensures students receive curriculum standards we are asking our teachers to teach.”
To be able to continue this, however, the school district needs to determine how they will continue funding this program without the federal help.
“We are looking at general modifications to keep the budget to keep staffing so we have good ideas staying in the school district,” Stokes said.
But the district will need to figure out where they can reallocate that $10 million that they will be losing with the grant to try to keep the strategies and ideas from Race to the Top.
“We wanted Carson City to have access to a uniform curriculum and tested in uniform manner so it was a district expectation,” Stokes said. “We have positions established to do this we now are going to have to figure out if we need those people or if we can shift those to elementary so we can make sure it is happening down there too. We are just trying to adapt to post-Race to the Top grant time and funding.”
The school district is also preparing for the 2016-2017 school year by assessing the possible influx of new students to determine if and how the district will need to respond.
Stokes said that they aren’t expecting the student population to increase too drastically, only about 30 students are expected to enter the district in the coming year. The district looks at aspects such as new housing developments and companies, like Tesla, to determine how many of those new residents could be families with school-aged children.
“We know there is, at least, one new housing project expected and we are planning for growth (in the community) so we need to make an educated determination about how many families with children will be coming into town,” Stokes said. “So when that happens we are ready for that.”
The upcoming changes and loss of the Race to the Top grant are the forefront of the committee that is creating the district’s next master plan. The committee meets again on Jan. 7.
IMPROVING THE OLD
The school district also will be working to improve its existing programs to try to increase student achievement inside the classroom and in future career paths.
One of the district’s successful programs is the Jumpstart College program, where seniors at Carson High can take classes at Western Nevada College to earn dual college and high school credit.
Previously, the program was offered exclusively to seniors, but come August, the program will be expanding and be offered to juniors as well. Students can earn credits in fields such as systems, robotics, construction and computer-driven technology.
“We are hoping to see these programs evolving over the next few years and open a number of opportunities for high school students,” Stokes said.
By opening the program to more grades, motivated students can potentially graduate high school with a diploma and an Associate’s Degree from WNC.
“Obviously, someone needs to be really motivated but it is a great option if they want,” Stokes said.
The program still has some details to be ironed out before it can be open for juniors in August.
The district is also working on expanding its Business and Education Succeeding Together (BEST) program. This program works to incorporate community partners into the classroom so that teachers can work with local businesses and organizations to make classroom lessons more relatable to real life.
In December, the district hosted a STEM Summit where local businesses and agencies met with science and math teachers from Carson to discuss possible ideas for collaboration in the classroom.
“We just had the STEM Summit that was aimed at aligning teachers, businesses and agencies to provide expert knowledge and experience to try to make curriculum that students are studying relate to real work application,” Stokes said.
Stokes said the district is excited to continue events like the STEM Summit so teachers can learn from the community and seek input and a partnership with these businesses. Stokes said it is important for the district to expand and create partnerships in fields such as manufacturing, engineering, government agencies, and trades to help students become college and career ready.