UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: Updated to include comments from the Sulphur Springs Union School District.
In a few short weeks, students in the Santa Clarita Valley will swap their pool toys for textbooks when they return to their classrooms and start the 2017-18 school year.
However school never really ended for administrators in all five of the SCV’s school districts. They spent their summers preparing new curriculum, facilitating professional development, overseeing construction efforts and refining current practices.
Each school district has several initiatives, programs and plans they are looking forward to providing their students and families when they return this August.
Here is a look at the most exciting and noteworthy things coming to each school district during the upcoming school year.
Castaic Union School District
Before students return to the Castaic Union School District’s (CUSD) four schools next Thursday, teachers and administrators will work together at Castaic Middle School to participate in the district’s annual Welcome Back Breakfast and professional development day.
The day will include information about the district’s vision and goals for the school year, introductions of the district’s new teachers and staff members, and a two-hour Active Shooter training with members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
During the school year, the district is looking forward to giving its elementary school students weekly music and physical education instruction and providing additional technology to its students.
“Our students have 1:1 Chromebooks in the 4th-6th grades and 1:3 Chromebooks in Transitional Kindergarten through 3rd grade,” the district said in an email. “Our focus will be on STEAM project-based learning with the inclusion of 3-D printers and classroom Makerspaces.”
At Castaic Middle School, each core subject will have a dedicated Chromebook cart and three computer lab or media centers for its students.
“Additionally, we plan to expand our very popular Drone program and Culinary Arts program, as well as other Career Pathways opportunities,” CUSD said.
Newhall School District
Big developments are coming to the Newhall School District (NSD) with the unveiling and opening of the Newhall Family Theater for the Performing Arts at Newhall Elementary School.
“It’s the rebirth of a theater that was built in 1940 and was completely redone. It’s not an auditorium, it’s a theater which is a big deal,” Superintendent Paul Cordeiro said. “We’re happy that venue will complement the efforts to make downtown a family place with the theater and restaurants.”
The completion of the building signifies the end of building efforts during the past four years at the district’s elementary school sites.
Cordiero said the district will also be improving security at each school site with fencing updates, lockdown drills and active shooter drills.
At the teaching level, the district will implement a new program for reading, called Benchmark Advance, for students in kindergarten to sixth grade. The change marks the first time in 10 years that the district has developed a new reading program.
“This year we’re implementing a new program for reading called Language Arts and we’re excited about how interactive it is for kids and how connected to the Common Core Standards,” Cordeiro said. “We are providing a lot of support and ongoing training… This is really going to catapult us and move us forward as a district.”
Teachers will also work to implement the district’s new math programs—introduced last year—and continue to lay the groundwork for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The district is also exploring the potential of having students work on the computer every day with computing devices funded for every third, fourth and fifth grade student by Measure E last spring.
As the school year continues, Cordeiro said NSD also plans to refine its practices and build its parent engagement.
Saugus Union School District
More than anything, the Saugus Union School District (SUSD) is excited for its students and families to return to the classroom
“We are so looking forward to all of our students returning and all of our teachers having the best year ever,” Superintendent Joan Lucid said. “The start of the new year is cause to celebrate that we’re able to provide such extraordinary services to our students.”
During the summer, administrators planned for the upcoming year with their leadership teams and the district’s custodial staff and maintenance staff worked to update all of SUSD’s school sites.
“Our staff has been working hard that our schools are ready to go,” said Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Isa de Armas.
The district’s focus during the 2017-18 year will be on refining its practice, targeting effective instructional strategies and following its district-wide Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) to “ensure student achievement.”
“We’re excited about all the initiatives we have in place and started,” de Armas said. “We will continue on that path on PBIS, Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, and explicit instruction.”
The district will also welcome more than 25 new teachers and specialists to its schools this year.
In the classroom, SUSD plans to continue its Chromebook initiative for students in first grade to sixth grade and integrate technology in the classroom.
“Last year we had the new interactive flat panels all put in so this will be our first full year for that technology access for every teacher,” Lucid said.
Sulphur Springs Union School District
Teachers and administrators in the Sulphur Springs Union School District (SSUSD) are also looking forward to having their students back in their classrooms.
“We are working as a team to hone in to meet the needs of all our students,” Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said. “We have several students who are gifted.”
This year, the district will be adopting its new English Language Arts curriculum, Benchmark Advance, for students in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade.
“We are excited to work with our teachers and administrative team with the implementation of that,” Kawaguchi said. “It’s totally aligned to the California State Standards… and it integrates with social studies and science.”
SSUSD also received an Arts For All grant to support the visual and performing arts in all of the district’s school classrooms.
“We are able to extend an arts residency program into our grades,” Kawaguchi said. “We will have an artist come in and share different forms of art our students and sometimes it has a historical component to it.”
In terms of construction, the district just finished updating facilities at Valley View Community School and is now working to update Pinetree Community School.
With funding from the Measure CK bond measure, the district constructed a new playground at Pinetree and is currently building a new administrative building on campus.
“Then the phase two is replacing the potable with permanent structures,” Kawaguchi said.
This year the district also plans to finalize its Facilities Assessment and Implementation Plan, which will guide SSUSD’s school-site work and construction efforts during the next 10 years.
William S. Hart Union High School District
In less than one week, students, teachers and staff will be returning to all of the William S. Hart Union High School District’s junior high schools and high schools.
“Obviously, as educators, everyone in the Hart District is excited to be back in the schools and back with the kids,” said Dave Caldwell, public relations officer for the Hart District.
A major focus for the district is rolling out the next phase of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for junior high and high school students.
“We’ve spent the last two and a half year or so working on this program that this year it will be the science taught in grades 7 and 8,” Caldwell said. “We will have all ninth graders take biology.”
The following year, in 2018-19, all tenth grade students will take chemistry and the year after, in 2019-20, all eleventh graders will take physics.
To prepare for the ninth grade biology program, science teachers spent the summer at two different symposiums the district put on in June and August to develop curriculum and cover the NGSS requirements.
In the spring, Saugus High School will unveil its new Performing Arts Center, named The Forum, which will include a full-theater, dressing rooms, backstage area, lighting booth, sound booth, classroom, ticket booth and more.
Before the first day of school, Caldwell wanted to remind commuters to plan for increased traffic around the schools and to plan ahead if residents are dropping off students.
The district also wanted to ensure that all incoming seventh grade students have their proper immunizations required by the state before the start of school.
“We are not allowed by law to have those students enroll before they have that proper immunization,” Caldwell said. “We worked with the elementary districts beginning last winter to communicate the need for outgoing sixth graders to make sure they have their immunization records completed.”
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