August 15 is first official day

Back to school for area students

Wanda English Burnett

Change is something people often resist. However, the changes that are taking place in the area schools are good changes - ones that are designed to improve the learning process.

Jac-Cen-Del will look completely different to students as they return this year. “We are very enthusiastic about the new Jac-Cen-Del Middle School and high school facilities that will be available to our students this year,” noted Dr. Leanna Phillippe, elementary principal.

Dr. Phillippe said when school starts the construction will not quite be completed. “However, many areas will be new including a multi-purpose music room, science lab rooms and cafeteria. This is an exciting change for our students.” She went on to say the staff and students are eager about the educational opportunities that are available to the school community with this building project.

The middle school concept will be implemented at JCD for the first year. Students in grades seven and eight will be isolated more this year than in the past, according to Dr. Phillippe. She said the sections have less numbers and small group instruction will be available. The sixth grade will transition to the middle school in January 2012.

JCD is offering new this year a College and Career Preparedness Program for students in grades two through six. “The goal is to have every student to visit college campuses, tech schools, and career center before they leave the elementary,” Dr. Phillippe noted.

An exciting addition at JCD is the Collaborative Innovation Center. Here the classroom has the latest up-to-date available technology for students. This room is the result of a combined effort of the Ripley County Community Foundation and Rising Sun Community Foundation. “This grant will enhance the educational prospects for our students,” Dr. Phillippe noted.

“We are thrilled with the upcoming possibilities for our students with the new facilities. This project will impact our ability to present instruction in the best manner. JCD is improving each year and we look forward to opportunities that will benefit our student’s future,” noted Dr. Phillippe.

South Ripley offered a mail-in registration this year to provide better service and convenience to students and their families. “The mail-in registration has been going very well to this point,” commented Dr. John Mehrle, superintendent for South Ripley schools.
Something new at South Ripley are the strides that have been made to make the entire campus wireless. Dr. Mehrle noted the investment will allow the school to explore moving towards a 1-1 initiative which means each student may eventually be provided with a laptop, IPAD, etc.

Beginning this year, South Ripley is offering parents the opportunity to check on students’ progress, assignments, and test results online via a “Parent portal.”

Changes to routes were also made this year to provide more efficient bus service. Color maps of the school routes have been mailed directly to the parents, according to school officials. They are also posted on the South Ripley website which is sripley.K12.IN.US.
“South Ripley Community School Corporation is very excited about beginning a new school year and in having the opportunity to provide engaging learning experiences to all of its students,” noted Dr. Mehrle.

According to Dr. Tom Reale, superintendent for Milan schools, while there aren’t a lot of changes this year, there are some.

One change is that the high school and middle school have adopted a rotating schedule in which the order of the periods changes every day to keep the first and final classes of the day from always being the same. Also, the school has a new calling system that can telephone all parents in the district in a matter of minutes. He noted, “This will allow us to get important information to parents very quickly.”

School Closings:
New this year at JCD is their link to the Town of Osgood’s automated texting notification system. Parents can receive a text when school is delayed, cancelled or other pertinent information is given. Parents can sign up for this service at (click on txtwire (greenbox) and complete the form on the page).

When emergencies arise such as extreme weather conditions of snow, ice, fog, or mechanical failure, the following local radio stations will carry area news: WRBI Batesville, 103.9; Greensburg 1330 AM; and WTRE Greensburg 107.3 FM.

Parents are encouraged to register for Nixle at South Ripley’s website. This free service enables parents to receive text messages and updates regarding school closings and delays. For an overview of the notification services available, log on to Dan Goris is the transportation supervisor and can be contacted at 689-5385 regarding any transportation related questions.

For Milan schools, Dr. Reale noted that they will have school if at all possible. If they can’t proceed in a safe manner, they will have mostly one hour delays. If it seems the road conditions will improve between 9 and 10 a.m. they will have a two-hour delay.

It is an important decision for school officials to call a delay or closure that sometimes isn’t popular with everyone. They try to make the call in the best interest of the safety of the students, also knowing that every day has to be made up at the end of the year.

Project Based Learning:
Project Based Learning is a theme at both Jac-Cen-Del and South Ripley schools. This summer staff and principals from JCD and South Ripley attended the Project Based Learning Academy. The focus is on creating engaging work that is authentic. “This training will help us create a learning environment that is student centered,” noted Dr. Phillippe. “Teachers and administrators received first-hand instruction on how to develop project based lessons that enhance student critical thinking skills and collaboration skills,” said Dr. Mehrle.

Both schools continue to expand the course offerings for Project Lead the Way.
Dr. Phillippe noted that the addition of science rooms will allow students to have the latest advanced hands-on experiences. “Teachers are excited and understand the expectations of utilizing the new facilities,” she said.

“Administrators provide the best learning experience for students (at Milan) by ensuring high quality instruction in every classroom and providing each teacher with the support and supplies needed to be effective,” noted Dr. Reale. He said administrators also ensure that students have a safe and clean environment in which to learn.

All three schools have bullying policies in place, according to administrators. Dr. Mehrle noted they have a team that has been very pro-active in regard to trying to provide a bully-free school environment. He said building administrators will be reviewing the South Ripley bullying and sexual harassment policies with their respective staff members at the beginning of the new school year.

Dr. Reale of Milan schools noted that “bullying is taken seriously and we educate our students not to engage in bullying.” He further noted that immediate action is taken if bullying does occur. “We encourage students and parents to come forward if they feel bullying is going on and the school seems unaware of it,” he told The Versailles Republican.

JCD is using the theme “Education Matters” this year. “We realize that not every child will go to college, but students need to understand the importance of graduating from high school,” noted Dr. Phillippe. She urged parents to stress to their children the necessity of graduating and possibly attending college or a technical school. “Students must be informed about their options to determine if post-high school education is needed. This will allow our community to provide a better prepared workforce and community members,” she added.

All school administrators urge parents to be involved with their children’s education. They need a quiet place for homework, need to read daily and most importantly stay connected with the teacher and school if there is a possible problem. “Please feel free to ask questions if you have concerns pertaining to your child’s education,” Dr. Phillippe said. She suggested a great time to build vocabulary is around the dining room table (with the TV turned off!). “Families who eat dinner together have a stronger family bond as well as higher performing students on academics,” she noted.

Dr. Mehrle encourages parents to stay in contact with their child’s teacher whether it be through the new “parent portal” the school has created, or a phone call or email. He also advised that, “students who are involved with school activities in some form or another typically stay in school and perform better academically.

Critical elements for your child’s successful learning is making sure the students come to school on time every day they are well enough to do so, according to Dr. Reale. He noted that another element is making sure the child’s homework is done and they have the opportunity to study. “These are critical elements in academic success that are beyond the school’s control,” he noted.

Students should get adequate sleep and nutritious meals to begin their day.
Area school administrators are busy making sure students have the best learning experience possible. They encourage dialogue and participation from parents and students to make education a joint effort that will impact students for years to come.