Schools open for 2019-2020 school year this Wednesday

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 And just like that — summer is coming to an end.

  Switzerland County Schools will open for their 2019-2020 school year next week, as teacher return to the classrooms on Monday, with Wednesday, August 7th, being the first official day for students.

  There are several new additions and policies and procedures for each of the schools individually, as well as overall changes corporate wide that should make the year run even more smoothly than it has in the past for students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators.

  “One of the biggest changes is a state requirement, outside of a board resolution, is that there will be a right hand pick up on all bus routes picking up students on state highways,” Superintendent Rod Hite said. “All students getting on buses off of state highways will have to be on the right side of the road. The parents are being notified via phone calls from Cindy Welch, our transportation director. It’s causing us to change a couple of turn around points, so it may change who’s riding a certain bus, or the time of pick up and drop off because of those turn around points. Cindy is working diligently to get that all ironed out and contact those parents prior to the start of school. That will be a change. If someone has a routine bus that they’ve ridden for four or five years, it may be something that is different. If we can make it work, we’re going to do pick up the safest way possible.”

  The other big change for many Switzerland County students will be the CEP program, which will provide free breakfast and lunch for every student in the corporation from kindergarten through eighth grade.

  “With that CEP program rolling out, that helps for lunches, but it still doesn’t help for textbook reimbursement,” Hite said. “We still encourage the parents to make sure that they fill out their free and reduced forms to make sure that they get assistance with textbooks when needed.”

  As for textbook rental, Hite said that the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation has again been generous to pick up 40-percent of the textbook rental fees for parents this school year. “Even for our paid textbook rental, only 60-percent is being applied to parent accounts this year after the endowment’s reimbursed. We’re very thankful for that.”

  Hite said that he would like to encourage all parents to make any changes that they need to make to update emergency and general contact information, such as home phone numbers, cell phone numbers and email addresses. He said that there were a couple of instances last school year where the corporation had to do mass notifications to parents and guardians, so making sure all information is up to date will be helpful should the system need to be implemented again.

  “We ask that everybody take a moment during registration over the course of the next few days to ensure all of their information is as current as possible,” the superintendent said.

  Hite also wanted to thank town board President Keith Smith and the other members of the town council as well as the town as a whole for organizing a meeting to ensure that the school was brought into the emergency notification loop as soon as possible, if an incident happens in the area that may impact the schools.

  “I do appreciate their efforts in trying to streamline that process,” he said.

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 Out at Switzerland County Elementary School, new principal Ashley Kitts is excited for the year to get underway.

  “Open House is next Monday (August 5th) from 4-6 p.m.,” Kitts said. “That’s an opportunity for students to come and be in the classroom, find their locker, and meet their teacher. It’s a great opportunity for students to go ahead and put a face to the name.”

  Kitts is also excited about bringing back a former program — a “Back to School Bash”.

  “Next Friday (August 9th), we are going to have a ‘Back to School Bash’ from 5-7 p.m.,” she said. “It’s outside. We’re going to have bounce houses, petting zoo, a photo booth. We’re going to have give-aways. We’re going to have free haircuts for all students. It’s going to be a little bit different that the open house. The focus for that evening will be building that relationship between our school and our parents and our students. It’s just a fun night.”

  Kitts said that there will also be local businesses and organizations that night providing information on services that they offer for families.

  Kitts said that the free breakfast and lunch program is going to be a big change at SCES.

  “We need to make sure that we’re getting the kids through the line as quickly as possible, so there’s going to be some differences,” the principal said. “Small differences during breakfast and lunch. We’re going to give every student the opportunity to go through that line to see if there’s something that they like, so that’s going to be a little bit different than before. It’s an awesome program, we just want to make sure that we’re taking full advantage of it.”

  There are also some new faces — and a returning one — coming to the Switzerland County Elementary staff.

  Kitts said that there are four new teachers in the building this year: Samantha Taylor, Britney Presnell, and Kirsten Hemberger — and longtime teacher Denise Crawford returns to the classroom after a year of retirement.

  There are also new instructional assistants in the building: Sally Back, Kristen Rose, and Ellen Koenig.

  “We’re just really excited to get the year underway,” Kitts said.

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  Principal Tony Spoores begins another year as the principal at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School, and is also excited about implementing the free breakfast and lunch program for all of his students.

  “We’re excited about those meals being free for all students,” he said. “We feel that it’s a huge bonus for our kids.”

  Spoores also said the school will hold its Open House night this Monday, August 5th, from 4-6 p.m.

  “This year, I plan to speak at 4 p.m. to parents, anyone who wants to come; and then again at 5 p.m.,” Spoores said. “Just a little time to go over new information, like our new attendance program. Also that night, through Natalie Williams at the courthouse, they are going to provide hot dogs, chips, and drinks for everyone during the Open House. All of that will be located in the gym.”

  Spoores also said that students and parents attending the Open House will have the opportunity to see their classroom and meet their teacher of the coming year; as well as become more comfortable with the building.

  As for new staff, Spoores said that Jeff-Craig has a new music teacher this year, as Brittany Camden takes over the music program; and Jeff-Craig also has a returnee — as Rita Ross is returning as the speech therapist for the school.

  “As far as work around here, we had new basketball goals put up on the playground — that’s probably the biggest thing that we had done,” Spoores said. “We’re just excited again to start the school year off and get everyone ready to go.”

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  At Switzerland County Middle School, Principal Sean McGarvey is also anxious for the new school year to get underway.

  Like both elementary schools, the middle school also qualified for the CEP program, which means free breakfast and lunch for all students in grades seven and eight — and it also means a new lunch room design.

  “The cafeteria is making some changes, more options,” McGarvey said. “The head cook, Crystal Higgins, is going to start treating it more like the high school in terms of how it’s set up. More options for the kids to eat.”

  And there’s one other change:

  “One big thing is that we’re only doing one lunch period now,” the principal said. “In the past, the seventh graders had their lunch, then there was a break, and then the eighth graders had their lunch. This year, we’re trying something different, so we’re going to have just one lunch for the seventh and eighth grades. Everyone will eat together.”

  Outside of the cafeteria, McGarvey said that changes in the daily schedule and routine are also changing.

  “We’re implementing what I’d call a hallway system,” McGarvey said. “All of the seventh grade lockers and classrooms are going to be upstairs; and all of the eighth grade lockers and classrooms are going to be downstairs. So they’re going to be split. They are going to have a lot of interaction — besides lunch — they aren’t going to see a lot of each other during the day.”

  McGarvey said that the middle school Open House will be on Tuesday, August 6th, with doors opening at 6 p.m. At 6:15 p.m., McGarvey will be giving a presentation in the gym that will last about 30 minutes; and then after that students and parents will be able to get schedules, tour the building, and meet teachers.

  Brenna Pietrykowski is the lone new teacher at the middle school, as she moves from the elementary school and she will be teaching eighth grade science.

  The principal said that two programs: one on building relationships and the school’s yearly incentive program, have been approved for funding once again by the Vevay-Switzerland County Foundation.

  “We think it’s going to be a great year,” McGarvey said. “We certainly thank Steve Crabtree and his board for their help with these programs, which really adds to the culture for our students.”

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  David Todd begins his second year at the helm of Switzerland County High School with expectations and goals for an outstanding year.

  Orientation for the incoming freshmen is tonight (Thursday, August 1st). It will be held at 6 p.m., and incoming students and parents will be greeted by the staff and have the chance to go over their schedules and meet teachers.

  The principal also said that the last day for schedule changes is tomorrow (Friday, August 2nd) by 6 p.m.

  A positive influence on his students, Principals Todd also points out that there will also be some new, stricter guidelines that all students will need to be aware of and follow.

  “I will tell you that we are going to put more of an emphasis on controlling cell phone use and electronics — ear buds, those sorts of things — our students will not be allowed to have cell phones out in the classrooms,” Todd said. “Cell phone use is going to be something that we are going to try and curtail because we feel like it is negatively affecting the work that the kids put in the classroom.”

  Todd said that he and his staff will also be closely watching for things like e-cigarettes and other tobacco and tobacco-related products.

  “We’re going to be on high alert for any type of vaping going on,” the principal said. “Vaping was an issue in our school last year, as it was in schools throughout the country; and it’s something that we’re going to be putting an extra emphasis on. That is a point of emphasis.”

  Todd said that the high school will see some new staff members, as Elizabeth Smith, who was a half time instructor last year in science and health, is now on the staff full time; and David Gee, a first year teacher who will be teaching physical education and health.

  “Both of them will be working at the high school and in the middle school,” Todd said. “And we’ve got Gloria Day transferring in to work in the library; along with Chelsy Holyoke who will be an aide in our moderate classroom.”

  The high school will also offer a new advanced placement computer science class for students; as well as continuing the partnership with Ivy Tech Madison through which students can earn college credits while still in high school.

  Although there is no official “Open House” at the high school, Todd says that his door is always open for parents. On Friday, August 9th, Todd said that the high school administrators — himself along with assistant principal Mark Boggs and director of guidance Marla Edwards will be meeting with each grade level individually to outline expectations.

  “Any time somebody wants to come in, they are more than welcome to come in at any time and speak with administration or whatever questions they may have. The school is open for parents and students.”