If there’s one thing school districts can count on, it’s that students are coming back Tuesday.
“Ready or not, the kids are coming,” said Jackie Hettinger, Penns Valley Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher.
Hettinger came in on a day off last week to put the finishing touches on her classroom. She spent some of Thursday rearranging desks, making name tags, and arranging folders and notebooks by subject.
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“What a lot of people don’t realize is we’re always working,” Hettinger said. “There is a lot to do.”
Penns Valley teachers had three in-service days the week before, but it was hardly enough time to complete everything.
Rhine, a first-year teacher, was hired Aug. 18. Since that day, she has spent every afternoon organizing her classroom and planning projects for her three students.
“When I was assigned my classroom, I did the Macaulay Culkin,” she said as she opened her mouth and put her hands over her cheeks.
Rhine’s classroom was cluttered with tables and classroom supplies, and by last Thursday, she was only half done with organizing her room.
She completed name tags, some class curriculum for the fifth-grade student and two sixth-grade students she’ll serve, and mounted bulletin boards that highlighted some of what the students will learn.
The Lock Haven University grad said it’s been a busy couple of weeks, but that the school’s support took some of that weight off her shoulders.
“They welcomed me like family,” Rhine said about her co-workers. “They’ve helped make it a smooth transition.”
What some Penns Valley teachers are especially excited about is their focus on technology. It’s something new for the district this year.
Superintendent Brian Griffith said the district had money left in its budget to lease tablets for every elementary school student.
“We’re using technology as a tool to deepen learning,” Griffith said.
Part of the district’s mission is also to focus on research-based instruction.
Teachers are being urged to educate their students based on the book “The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching,” by Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and other educational tools that highlight “being demanding, supportive and intentional,” Griffith said.
Penns Valley also revised its math curriculum to include more rigorous, high-quality academic expectations for all students, and teachers prepared all summer by attending seminars and working with the administration and each other.
“Our students need to be better problem solvers, critical thinkers and effective communicators,” Griffith said in an email. “The teachers will be making a considerable effort to design their lessons to be relevant to all students while asking complex questions that may or may not have one right answer.”
Administration at both Bald Eagle and Bellefonte area school districts praised icustodial staff for cleaning and preparing the schools ahead of time, but also said that faculty and staff worked hard over the summer to prepare for the school year.
The districts have also ramped up its security.
Bald Eagle Area Superintendent Jeff Miles said that, last week, maintenance installed a security system at each school that will require guests to show a state-issued photo identification that can alert administration if he or she is on Megan’s List — the state sex offender registry.
Bellefonte has the same security system, through School Gate Guardian, that was installed last year.
This year, to enhance security, the district will issue identification cards to every student, said Bellefonte Area Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger.
The ID cards will be linked to the students’ account, and can be scanned to check in and out of school, Potteiger said.
But school officials’ biggest tips are for students and their families to be patient during the first few days of school, and be mindful of the additional traffic in the morning and afternoon near school zones.