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What’s new in school

Posted August 07, 2013 in Greene County
Tim Christensen serves as the superintendent of the Jefferson Scranton and East Greene school districts.

Tim Christensen serves as the superintendent of the Jefferson Scranton and East Greene school districts.

Greene County Schools superintendent Tim Christensen is wearing numerous hats as the 2013-1014 school year quickly approaches.

That’s because after this school year, which begins Aug. 21, East Greene School District and the Jefferson-Scranton School District will go from whole-grade sharing to merging as one school district. Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, which begins on July 1, 2014, the district will be known as the Greene County School District.

Currently East Greene School District has entered into a whole-grade sharing arrangement with the Jefferson-Scranton School District for 2012-2013 school year. East Greene Elementary is being housed in the Grand Junction building along with the Greene County Intermediate (5/6) School. All 7-12 students attend either the Greene County Middle School or the Greene County High School in Jefferson. When the whole grade sharing agreement was made last year, the school in Rippey was closed.

The communities that make up the combined East Greene Elementary and Greene County Intermediate districts are Rippey, Grand Junction, Dana, Cooper, Scranton and Jefferson.

Three school boards are currently working separately and together, Christensen explained. He attends most, if not all, of the meetings of the school boards for the two existing districts and a new one created after the constituents voted to merge the two school districts in a February referendum.

Christensen now serves as the superintendent of both Jefferson Scranton School District and East Greene School District, as well as the newly formed district. The two school districts together have approximately 1,350 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The new school board is made up of all five Jefferson-Scranton school board members and two East Greene School Board members, Christensen said. The new school board members are Sam Harding, Susan Burkett, Teresa Hagen, Ashley Johnston, Mark Peters, Jeff Lamoureux and David Ohrt. The school board had to be formed within 45 days of the vote to combine the school districts.

Christensen said the newly formed school board meets once a month to begin working out the details of a combined school district. There have been three joint school board meetings with all three boards.

The vote to merge the two districts passed by 89 percent in the Jefferson-Scranton School District, and 87 percent the East Greene District. Although not absolutely decided, the Grand Junction school building may close as part of the merger.

Christensen said most people in both districts seem to be on board with the decision to merge.

“(They support) having all the students at the high school and doing other whole grade sharing,” he said.

The Paton Churdan School District, located in Churdan, is in the last year of its second five-year contract to send its juniors and seniors to Greene County High School for one-half day and their freshmen and sophomores for about one-third of the day, Christensen said. However, officials from that district are exploring the possibility of sharing with other districts rather than the new Greene County District next year.

“Glidden Ralston and South Central Calhoun (have approached us) to request proposals for sharing,” Christensen says.

Annie Smith, Paton Churdan’s pre-K through 12th grade principal for the school in Churdan, confirmed they are talking with other school districts.

“Right now we are down to just looking at the possibility of sharing with Ralston Glidden,” she says.

Paton Churdan also has a new superintendent, Rob Olsen. He serves 80 percent of his time with  Glidden Ralston and 20 percent with Paton Churdan.

New teachers in the Greene County district are Courtney Schmidt, who will teach vocational agriculture education, and Karen Sandberg, curriculum director. One new position was created for a middle school special education teacher, with the teacher being contracted through a company called KeBecca.

“This is a teacher who can work with level 3, meaning with behavior disorders,” Christiansen says. The school contracted out for that position because that level of instructor is difficult to find.

Greene County High School and Paton Churdan are making laptop computers available to students on a one-to-one basis at the high school level.

In grades three through eight, 10-25 computers will be available for each classroom to use in East Greene School District. Even children in kindergarten through second grades will have access to iPads in the classroom.

“Kids are being exposed to computers all the time,” Christensen says. “Computer literacy isn’t about the fact that kids have computers or iPads or chrome books, it is about what they can use them to learn and share and access. It also makes collaboration amongst teachers and students worthwhile.”

The cost was more than $300,000.

As the school begins to gear up, transportation directors are tuning up the buses. That’s necessary as district buses will travel 93,330 miles during the upcoming year.

Ten bus routes run each day. Each bus picks up an average of 15 students daily.

“The school district is spread out, and there is no way to put more students on the bus. Longer routes would require a lengthier bus ride; students would be on the bus too long,” Christensen says.

The school also picks up a group of kids in Scranton.

Paton Churdan is providing computers 1-on-1 as well, offering each high school student a Google Chrome book computer.

The district is offering new classes as well, such as environmental studies, a college preparatory English class, and additional classes through the online classrooms.

During Paton Churdan’s open house on Aug. 20, one of the sessions is mandatory for students from grades nine to 12. The meeting is with parents and students to explain the computer program.

Also during the open house, students get to meet their new teachers in their classroom from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Another meeting from 7:30 – 7:45 is mandatory if participating in sports from grades seven to 12 in either the Paton Churdan or East Greene school districts.

Smith said this year’s enrollment is at about the same as last school year at 201.

New teachers for East Greene and Jefferson Scranton school districts are:

Spencer Bauer, intermediate science; Zachery Beekan, middle school special education; Richard Beeler, high school physical education; Lucas Boyd, high school math teacher; Holly Byrkeland, middle school special education teacher; Kelly Delagardelle, middle school guidance counselor; Maleea Gannon, intermediate English/language arts; Kelly Gray, high school Read 180; Vicki Gustafson, family and consumer science; Amy Keenan, middle school science; Courtney Schmidt, agriculture; Rebecca Soeker, high school social studies; Diana Towers,  PK teacher; Maranda Van Cleve, EG elementary and intermediate principal; and Shawn Zanders, middle school principal.

Paton Churdan has three new instructors, but their names were not available at press time.

A fundraiser for a weight room renovation in the school at Churdan is from 6-7:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. The event is being held by the school and by the Paton Churdan Athletic Boosters to pay for paint, a new floor and purchasing new weight equipment. The existing room was built in the late 1980s.

Laptop computers may have replaced fresh, new Big Chief tablets at the beginning of the school year, but some things remain the same — news faces, new prospects and a new start.

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