Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Opening school day comes with changes

Luna seeks 6.9 percent increase in state education funding

Express Staff Writer

Bella Maurtua, a fifth-grader at the Community School, was bright and alert for the first day of school. Elsewhere on the Sun Valley independent school’s campus, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were attending school in portable classrooms set up in the parking lot. The portable classrooms will be used this year while a new Creative Arts and Middle School Building is being constructed. Photo by Roland Lane

As students in Blaine County started the 2014-2015 school year on Tuesday, Tom Luna, state superintendent of public instruction, announced the same day that he’s seeking a 6.9 percent increase for education in Idaho for the 2015-2016 school year. The increased funding would primarily go to teachers’ pay and professional development.
    In Blaine County, opening day found several notable changes. Syringa Mountain School, the county’s first state-funded charter school, opened its doors with about 165 students, which is close to the school’s enrollment goal. Located in south Hailey, the school offers Waldorf educational methodology, focused on teaching children’s “heads, hearts and hands,” as an alternative to traditional classroom instruction.
    “Syringa is off to an incredible start,” school Director Mary Gervase said Tuesday. “How could we not be? There are traces of the love and commitment of so many community members and parents everywhere we look. This has been two years in the making, and it truly has taken a village, the Wood River Valley village, to bring this school into being.”
    The private Community School in Sun Valley started the year with much of its parking lot occupied by four buildings, portable structures for the school’s middle-school students. There’s one building each for grades six, seven and eight, plus a specialty building for arts, music and learning support. The buildings will be used this school year while a new Creative Arts and Middle School Building is constructed on the Community School campus.
    However, loss of the parking lot means some staff will have to park elsewhere, namely uphill at the Sun Valley Resort parking lot across Dollar Road from the ice skating rink.
“There’s still quite a number of parking spaces in the parking lot,” Head of School David Holmes said Tuesday.
The catch is, however, that the available parking spaces are reserved for those with three or more people who are carpooling.
Holmes said the school adjusted well on the first day to the changes.
“We’re right on schedule with the construction and the parking is going well. It’s going very smoothly, and there’s kind of a level of excitement when you have a major construction project that’s going to bring a major asset to the school,” he said.
    A major change in the Blaine County School District was the official start of Alturas Elementary School, formerly known as Woodside Elementary School, as a magnate school for dual-immersion studies for grades K-5. In the district’s dual-immersion program, students are instructed in both Spanish and English with the intent that they become proficient in both languages.
    Also, new Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes began her first school day in the district by handing out pencils and greeting students at Hailey Elementary School and Silver Creek High School.
    Also at Silver Creek High, the “Big Picture” program goes into effect this year. The program provides students with an innovative, personalized learning environment that works in tandem with real community and world events.
Increased funding
    The Luna proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year would add $94,402,400 to the state education budget, increasing the total expenditure to $1,460,700,900.
    “We’re meeting our priorities and fulfilling our promises with this budget,” Luna stated in a press release. “This budget proposal follows priorities set forth with Gov. [C.L. “Butch”] Otter’s Taskforce for Improving Education. We know the most important factor in a child’s education is the quality of the teacher. This budget focuses on improving teacher pay and providing better support for teachers through targeted professional development and access to 21st century learning tools.”
    Luna’s budget request, along with requests from other state departments and agencies, now needs to be considered by Otter, prior to his submittal of a state budget recommendation to the Idaho Legislature in January.

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