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Plans show examples of how RSS plans to use renewal

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

Following the mid-May unveiling of Rowan-Salisbury School’s Renewal effort, 10 local schools on Tuesday will present operational plans to the Board of Education for approval.

Each plan, developed to address the top identified needs at the individual school site, was crafted using new Renewal-provided flexibilities in terms of curriculum, budget, personnel, calendar and scheduling.

According to the Renewal Guidebook launched by the system on May 17, the 10 schools presenting include four elementary schools, one middle school and five high schools: Hanford-Dole, Knollwood, Landis, and Overton elementary schools, West Middle School and East Rowan, North Rowan, Salisbury, South Rowan and West Rowan high schools.

Three plans, those for China Grove and Isenberg elementary schools and Knox Middle, have already been approved.

Districtwide calendar changes and a new, early August start date have already been approved by the board. But other changes for the pending 10 — those in regard to curriculum, budget, personnel and scheduling, are yet to be decided. Examples of ways the schools are proposing to use the new flexibilities are as follows:

Curriculum flexibility

To address low literacy levels, Hanford-Dole has proposed purchasing iReady, an app that provides individualized and interactive academic instruction. The school will also provide tutors to students who have deficits in reading.

Kindergarten classes at Landis will move away from a heavy focus on academics and instead meet the varied needs of learners with a balance of academic instruction and developmentally appropriate play. According to the site’s plan, research supports the benefits of this balance in kindergarten classrooms.

Moving upward to West Rowan Middle, curriculum flexibility will allow for a shift to focus on sustainable development, including the environment, economy, equality and health and well-being. This focus will be explored through problem- and project-based learning, blended learning strategies and more.

At the high school level, curriculum flexibility includes proposals for combined classes, certifications and hybrid/online courses at East Rowan and mastery-based pathways at both East Rowan and Salisbury High.

Budget flexibility

At Knollwood, funding will be used to provide hands-on “learning expeditions” to which students can hook academic concepts. The school will also use funding to purchase books relating to these explorations.

Landis, to complement its new play-balanced kindergarten instruction, has proposed using Title 1 funds to purchase supplies to “transform kindergarten classrooms,” enabling this developmentally appropriate play. Similarly, Salisbury High will use funds to create “stress-free zones” to meet the mental health needs of students.

Many sites have proposed using funding to provide unique training opportunities for school staff. Salisbury High School’s plan, for example, proposes repurposing the funds from a technology facilitator position to fund teacher professional development. South Rowan High proposes using this flexibility to train staff on advisory roles, integrated course planning, instructional support structures for personalized learning and work-based learning.

Finally, West Rowan High School has proposed providing funding and transportation for potentially college-bound seniors to go on campus tours, addressing a need to increase student access to college and/or career counseling.

Personnel flexibility

Working with other North community schools, Hanford-Dole plans to implement challenge-based learning in enhancement or exploratory courses, where learners achieve new understanding through practice solving real-world problems. To support this, enhancement teachers will become “design teachers,” offering exploration in the arts, sciences and various intelligences, according to the school’s plan. Two enhancement teaching positions are set to be redesigned under the new flexibility, and a certified teaching position will shift into two additional teacher assistants to assist in challenge-based learning and student support.

Knollwood has proposed repurposing positions to “hire a larger variety of non-traditional enhancement instructors,” the plan states.

Overton Elementary will repurpose three positions to bring about an intervention and mobility technician, a behavior technician and a transformation teacher to oversee all three, each in effort to address the school’s high number of transient students.

At North Rowan High, personnel freedom could bring about a full-time “authentic work coach” and a part-time beginning teacher coach. Authentic work enables learning through real-life or simulated tasks.

Scheduling flexibility

With hopes to increase student performance on standardized assessments, Knollwood is proposing providing teachers collaboration time to “create lessons that incorporate high-yield instructional strategies.”

West Rowan Middle has proposed flexible scheduling that would create a sixth-grade academy and seventh- and eighth-grade mixed grouping. The scheduling would allow teaches to create classes based on students’ unique smartness, career aspirations and personal passions.

East Rowan High has proposed extended school hours, flexible and arena scheduling to “increase student ownership and choice.” Arena scheduling is similar to college courses, where students schedule themselves directly into classes in a given timeframe. The school has also proposed removing the scheduling distinction between honor and regular level courses.

Finally, Salisbury High School has proposed a late start on Wednesdays for students, allowing teachers a dedicated time for professional development. On these days, breakfast would be served at 9:45 a.m. and classes would begin at 10:30 a.m.

School board approval

The Board of Education will hear 15-minute presentations regarding each of the proposed plans and their uses of renewal flexibility on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Wallace Education Forum, 500 N. Main Street in Salisbury.

There, board members will be able to ask questions and either approve or deny each of the proposals.

For more information on the plans, visit www.rssed.org/about/renewal.

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