There will be a lot going on in the Oregon School District this year.
In addition to building a new school, and finding out who will teach and learn there, the district will need to establish new school boundaries and plans to come up with new ways to help students’ mental and emotional health,
The 2019-20 school year begins Tuesday, and with it, a variety of new programs and plans will be in place or in progress in Oregon and Brooklyn schools.
For starters, the new elementary school will receive plenty of brick, mortar and glass throughout the year, but also a name, staff and student body. At Rome Corners, new traffic patterns recommended by a joint village-school district study will be established to help safety. A task force comprising of district staff and parents is slated to work on permanent boundaries between the schools. The district is adding a mental health specialist to work at all schools on students’ social and emotional health.
Finally, a group of district educators will be working this year to develop long-term goals to provide students with more opportunities.
1. New school progress
The new K-6 elementary school under construction in Fitchburg will transform this school year from a foundation with a few walls to one the most state-of-the art public schools in Wisconsin.
The approximately 130,000-square-foot elementary building will be the first “net zero” school in the state, meaning it’s designed to produce more energy than it uses, through solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling. The school will also have several playgrounds, three inner courtyards a butterfly garden.
“There is a lot of green space,” district superintendent Brian Busler said this year.
More work will be going on outside the campus this year.
Perhaps the most intriguing part will be finding out what school will be named, who will staff it and which students will attend. Those questions will be answered throughout the year, starting with the naming process, which starts this week and runs through September. Students will be asked to choose a name in October.
Busler said a new principal likely will be selected this fall, with staff interviews for other school positions to follow. The district would then post vacancies created at other schools in February.
He said students will likely be determined later next spring.
2. New routes/rules around RCI
In the wake of problems with student drop-off and pick-up at Rome Corners Intermediate School, the school district and Village of Oregon teamed up on a $12,000 traffic study last spring to recommend permanent improvements.
Those are now ready and in place for the arrival of students for classes Tuesday, though RCI principal Darci Kruever suggests parents and guardians continue to leave some extra time for drop-off and pick-up for the first few weeks of school.
“Dropping off on South Perry between Ash Street and our softball field has been recommended by previous families to help reduce traffic congestion in the parking lot,” she wrote in a note to parents.
The school has five visitor parking stalls on the immediate left upon entering the parking lot, and visitors can enter the building through the main entrance and check in at the front office.
Other transportation changes for the school beginning this school year:
• Only right turns will be permitted when entering or exiting the parking lot between 7-8 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m. on school days
• No stopping, standing, or parking is permitted along South Perry Parkway in front of the school
• Vehicles entering the parking lot to drop off students should proceed as far forward to the red X (Door 14) as possible before stopping and make sure children exit from the passenger side of the car
• Students may enter through Door 14, and supervision will be available beginning at 7:30 a.m.
3. Boundary changes
With the new school in Fitchburg set to join the district next fall, OSD officials are taking the opportunity to review all school boundaries in the district, which could affect hundreds of students.
The district’s Boundary Task Force, comprising OSD parents and staff, has been reviewing practices on which school each student will attend.
In the past, Busler said, elementary students were divided among Brooklyn, Netherwood and Prairie View elementaries based on geographic location, with some options for parents if they were “reasonably close to one of the schools,” he said.
Now, district officials will try to keep similar student populations at the elementaries
The goal of the task force is to provide balanced student populaions at all four elementary schools as to not overcrowd any one school “while still allowing flexibility for families,” Busler said.
The first step will be a report the group is scheduled to submit to the school board at its Oct. 14 meeting. New boundaries would be created throughout this school year, to be in place for the 2020-21 school year next September.
“We need some general boundaries, and then we will work and adjust that along the way,” Busler said.
4. Mental health specialistFor the 2019-20 school year, the district has hired a mental health specialist to coordinate care plans and assist with all facets of addressing student needs associated with mental health struggles, said Oregon High School principal Jim Pliner.
Allison Oscar previously worked in Littleton, Colorado, and is a school counselor by training.
“We will see an uptick on social and emotional learning in the district and the high school,” he said. “It would be something that will feel different (this year). We’re excited to add her expertise and set of skills to our team, and we believe she’s going to be a difference maker here for our kids and our families.”
Oscar will sit with a team of counselors and social workers.
“We feel fortunate to have such an experienced individual join the district,” he said.
5. Five levers project
The 2019-20 school year will also be a time for some serious long-term planning for the district.
For the past two school years, school leadership teams have been charged with developing school goals and making plans for the future of their schools. In this process, nearly 100 educators have worked with consultant Dr. Jim Rikabaugh, who wrote, “Five Levers to Improve Learning.”
Busler said the goal is to better align services on a 4K-12 basis.
“We have found great success with this project,” he said. “Ideally, students will see us engage them more in their learning and provide them with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning and their coursework.”