News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Kids make the most of new Wednesday school format
Nov 21, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Riverton students have been enjoying their mornings at school while teachers meet in professional learning communities every Wednesday (see related story).
At Jackson Elementary School, kindergarteners through second-graders have several activities to choose from on Wednesday mornings, from drawing to reading or free play outside. This week, one group listened to a story in the front foyer while others played basketball in the gym. The computer lab was filled with children, as was one classroom that had been dedicated to a Lego building project.
Administrators estimated about 120 of the school's 170 students show up for every late-start Wednesday. Paraprofessional Tanya Dorrell said she usually sees the same children in the art room, where they work on arts and crafts before heading outside to play before class begins at 8:30 a.m.
"We get quite a few kids," she said.
More fun for all
On Wednesday, the students were making cornucopias to take home for Thanksgiving, and Dorrell said they will build ornaments for their families in December.
Principal Owen Lampert gives paraprofessionals the freedom to plan their own Wednesday morning activities, and Dorrell said the challenge makes school more fun for her -- and for the students.
"They don't always have to study and do schoolwork," she said, adding that her own children look forward to their late-start Wednesdays at Rendezvous Elementary School, Riverton Middle School and Riverton High School. "They have social time to sit and visit."
RMS assistant principal Curt Collins said his students seem to like having time to socialize, as the rest of their day is relatively "structured."
"They enjoy just meeting and talking with each other," Collins said this month during a Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees meeting.
He keeps the students separated by grade levels in the gym, the multi-purpose room and the school's media center. Collins said 70 to 80 students from each grade show up to participate in late-start activities.
"We offer tutoring, (or) we offer quiet time if they just want to read," Collins said. "We offer a variety of games, (and) until the weather turned cold we were walking with students."
At Ashgrove Elementary School, paraprofessionals team up with physical education, art and music teachers to look after students so other instructors can focus on collaboration elsewhere in the building. Music teacher Mary Lea Wolf showed trustees examples of some of the activities she organizes on Wednesday mornings.
"I brought show and tell," she said, pulling puzzles, books, card games and crafts out of a bag. "Kids love them. ... We have kindergarten, first and second grade, so you have a mix of ages and abilities. It's nice to see sort of a family kind of feeling, older ones helping younger ones."
More than 150 kids come to late-start Wednesdays at Ashgrove, Wolf said -- a fraction of the number who show up at Rendezvous Elementary School.
Principal Mary Jo Chouinard said Wednesdays were easier when the weather was nice and students could play outside, but now that mornings have grown cold she has to fit almost 400 students into the school, all while professional learning community discussions are ongoing. She said she has tried to focus on more academically oriented pastimes, placing children in computer labs and writing classes for example.
"But not all of the kids arrive at the same time," Chouinard told trustees. "They dribble in, so it's hard to get really academic subjects going."
She said paraprofessionals have started targeting students who may need extra homework help, while other children can participate in a number activities throughout the school. Space has been an issue, however, since Rendezvous was modified to house Riverton's third- through fifth-graders this year.
"It's hard to accommodate that many kids in the morning," she said. "We kind of have to have them spread all over. But we're doing the best we can to keep them busy."
Superintendent Terry Snyder said the board requested activities be available at local schools during late-start Wednesdays in an effort to make the scheduling change more manageable for parents or caretakers.
"We're providing supervision and activities for students so the family wasn't impacted by this change," Snyder said. "I think that decision on our and your part has helped make this successful. We want to be family friendly with our decisions."