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School starts Aug. 24

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

School is back in session starting Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Principals, teachers and staff are busy getting ready for the upcoming school year, as a few changes are being made in the district.

At Ely Elementary, four new staff members have joined the team: Travis Risovi, Counselor; Paige Spence, Grade 2; Ashleigh Blikre, Technology; and Alyson Mundahl (Grade TBD).

“I am very excited about these staff members,” Jason Gullickson, Ely Principal, said. “They bring a whole new skill set and all kinds of energy.”

The elementary school will also see a change in scheduling. Students will now enjoy recess before lunchtime, as research has shown it improves student behavior and retention. “They tend to come in more settled, and they’ll do a better job of eating. When they return to the classroom from the cafeteria, they tend to be more settled, too,” Gullickson said.

Another exciting thing to happen at Ely this year involves healthy snack options available to students twice a week.

Other changes involve standards-based grading, in that it will now continue into 3rd grade results. “We’ll be looking at recording it as advanced, proficient, partially proficient and novice,” Gullickson said. “I think that what lends itself well with that is that with 3rd graders, as they get it now, that’s all they have ever received.”

Community members may have noticed a new playground on Ely school grounds. Playground installation was completed this past week. The project cost approximately $130,000 for all new equipment and installation.

“It was to the point where it was a safety issue,” School District Superintendent Mike McNeff said. “We had parts of the slides that were cracked and kids were getting their arms caught on them. The last time it was replaced was probably 20 years ago. We’re looking forward to it, and I know our kids are pretty excited about it.”

Playground equipment was purchased through Dakota Fence in Williston.

“[I’m most excited for] the return of activities, the energy, the people and the faces,” Gullickson said. “I cannot wait to begin working with the students, staff and parents. That’s what this job is about.”

Over at Rugby High School, although not as many changes are planned for the upcoming year, faculty and staff members are excited for the year to begin.

Two new teachers will be joining the staff: Beau Eriksson, who will be teaching Social Studies, and Haley Oian, who will be the Special Education Instructor.

Registration for students in grades 8-12 is Aug. 16 and 17. New students are encouraged to attend registration on the 16th.

Seventh grade orientation is on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. Students will receive their registration packs and schedules, as well as take a tour of the building. “They get to play with their lockers and get used to the building,” RHS Principal Jared Blikre said. “It relieves some of that anxiety. Those first few days of school can be quite nerve-racking, especially for 7th graders in that transitional phase.”

Some new courses will be accessible to students this year, including a Mass Media class made available for high school students. The long-term plan for this course is to prepare students for the eventual development of the school’s own “Panther Vision” channel. The channel will be featured through NDTC, and will be channel 471. “Panther Vision” is something that parents and students can look forward to for the second half of the year. The course will teach students how to interview others, how to work with green screens and cameras, and more.

Seventh graders can look forward to a course in Digital Citizenship, which will teach them how to use their Chromebooks and how to become proper users of technology. They will also learn about their digital footprints and how to use Google Classroom.

“Fall is such an exciting time of year. Right now, the building is kind of quiet. We want to get the kids back,” Blikre said.

The gym floor has been refinished, and the staff and maintenance crew have been busy getting the building ready for students’ return.

“As far as focus areas for staff this year, our main goals are like they have been in the past focusing on student engagement, using data to drive instruction, and then focusing on recruiting and retaining quality staff,” Blikre said.

These goals are part of a plan that has been in place for approximately the last three to four years. “We really hone in on those areas and believe that if we’re working well together, and we’re really worried about the data that we have and the engagement and improvement of instruction, things will take care of themselves,” McNeff said. “Those three goals are very important to us.”

The schools want to encourage students to be active members of the community, take part in Panther Pride and get involved in extracurricular activities. Parents are also encouraged to be heavily involved in their children’s education by establishing routines, communicating regularly with teachers and staying interested in and supportive of their children’s activities.

“I love seeing kids be successful, seeing them making connections, and seeing them grow and develop into good citizens,” Blikre said. “Ultimately, we have the same goals as parents. We want their kids to be successful. We’re in this together, and communication is the key to a successful year.”

As for parents, McNeff encourages becoming a part of the Parental Advisory Committee. Parents will be able to meet 4-5 times per year with members of the school board to address questions, comments and concerns. Last year, the meetings were centered on a parental book entitled, “12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid: Leading Your Kids to Succeed in Life” by Tim Elmore.

“We talk about things that are working and things that aren’t working from the parent perspective. We’re hearing their voices and using that to improve some of the things that we’re trying to do,” McNeff said.

Faculty and staff in the district are readying themselves for the upcoming school year, and parents and students have a lot to look forward to at such an exciting time.

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