Pa. schools prepared for return of students

August 23, 2012|By BILL KOHLER |
  • Justine Gibbon, a fourth year Kindergarten teacher at Greencastle-Antrin Primary School, sets up the desks for her students who will be arriving next Monday for the first day of school.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Thousands of students will be returning to class in Franklin County, Pa., on Monday and administrators said they are ready.

In Greencastle, Pa., about 3,100 students are expected at Greencastle-Antrim School District’s four schools, according to Superintendent Greg Hoover.

Hoover said that is about 100 more students than last year, which was the district’s highest student total ever.

“This is a major increase for us,” said Hoover, who is starting his sixth year at the helm of the district.

The district underwent no physical changes and few staffing changes, but did make some internal upgrades. Greencastle-Antrim received a state Keystones to Opportunity grant of $996,048 that allowed officials to vastly improve the district’s technology.

The improvements include smart boards in many classrooms, e-readers and a new student management system that will, among other things, allow parents to follow their child’s progress more closely through the Internet.

Hoover said the smart boards are like a big computer screen that allow teachers to show elements that all students can see, including videos, photos and lessons. It also is a touch screen and can be written on by teachers and students.

“It’s very cool,” he said.

Technology is a huge part of the education process now.

“It allows us to gather and use so much more information,” he said.

“Motivation is such a big part of learning, and students are more motivated now-a-days by technology,” Hoover said. “They have it at home and they expect to have it at school, too.”

• In Waynesboro, Pa., major capital projects and administrative changes have occurred in the district’s six schools as well as its administrative building.

Sherian Diller is the new superintendent and Wendy Royer is the new assistant superintendent. Diller has been a teacher and principal in the district for several decades and Royer is a former Waynesboro resident who started her teaching career at Summitview Elementary School in 1989.

Aaron Taylor is the new principal at the middle school, Kimberly Calimer is now principal at Hooverville Elementary School, Barbara Martin replaces Diller as principal at Mowrey Elementary School and Rita Sterner-Hine has moved from the principal’s post at Hooverville to the same job at Summitview.

At the high school, Brian Richter is the new associate principal and Diane McCallum is the new assistant principal. Eric McIlquham replaces longtime Athletic Director Dan McLaughlin in that role.

For the students, changes are afoot at the middle school as a new schedule has been implemented that Diller says will focus more time on math and reading. The middle school and Fairview Elementary School have received new computer labs.

Districtwide, a new student information system will be rolled out this fall that will allow students and parents more access to grades, attendance and other pertinent information. The district’s website also underwent a complete transformation.

Diller said she spent the past two days traveling to the district’s schools and said they are ready for the more than 4,200 students who will be arriving Monday and Tuesday.

“Things are looking great and we’re looking forward to seeing those students on Monday,” Diller said.

• In Mercersburg, Pa., Tuscarora School District Superintendent Rebecca Erb is starting her sixth and final year directing the district, and her excitement for the coming year is obvious and palpable.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in this district and the teachers are really looking forward to getting (the students) back and moving them forward with their academics,” said Erb.

A large factor in Erb’s positive outlook for the 2012-13 school year is that many of the school district’s building projects are complete, including major renovations at Mercersburg Elementary School and several athletic makeovers at James Buchanan High School.

Mercersburg Elementary was what Erb called a full-process makeover with everything from mechanicals, a new roof, a new media center and even the addition of air conditioning included in the plan.

“We are very pleased” with the results, Erb said Thursday, saying the $7 million dollar project “exceeded our expectations.”

The high school was a major renovation project for the last several years and Erb said some of the finishing touches were finally completed. The colorful new tennis courts were dedicated earlier this month, a new track is in place and the dust has been wiped away from the inside.

“It usually takes a year to get everything shined up” after a school renovation, she said.

“All of the buildings are up to date and we can really start school with the same amenities in all the buildings. It’s a big deal,” she said.

Tuscarora, which serves students and residents in Mercersburg, St. Thomas, Pa., and its surrounding townships, will welcome about 2,600 students to its six schools. The student enrollment number has been stable for years, she said.

Academic changes include the addition of literacy coaches in all the buildings and two new math coaches in the district.

“We are going to put a lot of time and energy into the math curriculum,” she said.

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