RENO — In fall 2010, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) formed a calendar committee comprising administrators, teachers, association representatives and others to explore calendar options that would improve learning conditions. The WCSD’s strategic plan, Envision WCSD 2015 – Investing in Our Future, calls for important reforms, including strategies that would improve student achievement and assist students on their pathway to graduation.
Currently, Washoe County schools do not have a common calendar. With schools starting and ending on different dates, these schedules reduce the district’s ability to provide efficient and cost-effective support to the schools, teachers and students. Families could experience issues with having their children on different schedules and operating costs for the district are increased.
“We believe a calendar that better fits the learning needs of our students will be another way of helping more students graduate,” said WCSD Chief Community Engagement and Communications Officer Steve Hull. “The survey we are launching will allow the community, parents, employees and students to learn more about the proposed calendar options and provide us crucial information about what they believe is important. We will use this information, along with other information from focus groups and town hall meetings, as part of the data we will give to the board of trustees before it makes any decisions.”
The calendar committee is examining the effects of three different calendar options. The first option would mean the current calendar remains unchanged. The second option would call for the current calendar to be implemented as it has been in the past with an additional three weeks of voluntary instruction scheduled between the first and second semesters. This would expand the winter break to five weeks. The third option would spread the three weeks of voluntary instruction throughout the school year. In this case, one week would be scheduled in the fall, one week would be added onto winter break and the third week would be scheduled in the spring.
The survey addresses the academic and historical reasons for changing the calendar. The calendar also reduces the number of different starting times, making it easier for parents with students at more than one school.
The survey seeking input on the proposed calendar options for 2012-13 can be taken online at http://research.zarca.com/clients/8112k12778/survey.aspx?sid=32&lang=0&data=.
More information about the calendar options can be found by visiting the WCSD homepage at http://washoecountyschools.org and clicking on the “Proposed School Calendar Information and Survey” button under the “What’s New” section.
Teacher laces up first pair of marathon shoes
RENO — It began as a metaphor to motivate eighth-graders for their writing exam. Now, Jenny Hoy, an English teacher at Vaughn Middle School, is less than a month away from running a marathon for the first time in her life.
Hoy will run the 26.2 mile Rock-n-River Marathon on May 1. She said her fitness challenge started at the beginning of the school year.
“One of the milestones for students is the eighth-grade writing exam,” she said in a release. “I’ve always used the metaphor with my students that they should get ready for the exam like they are preparing for a marathon. You can’t just show up that day and run.”
Hoy says her inspiration came when one of her students asked her what she was willing to do this year to improve. One of her students saw an ad for a marathon contest and challenged her to take on the task.
As part of her training, Hoy works with a nutritionist and a fitness trainer from Reno Running and Fitness as well as a host of others who have helped her select the correct shoes and establish healthy eating habits for a marathon trainee.
“She always uses that metaphor that if you run a marathon, you have to train for it,” said eighth grader Kaylee Avera, one of Hoy’s students. “She tells us we need to put on ankle weights for our writing. It motivates us.”
Simulated crash teaches students about drunk driving
RENO — The harrowing scene of a staged car crash on Tuesday followed by a mock funeral service left the juniors and seniors of Damonte Ranch High School in tears, helping them to think twice about drinking and driving. The school’s two-day, student-organized Every 15 Minutes program made an emotional impact on the school for all involved, including the high school’s 1,500 students, parents and staff.
Students attended a three-hour funeral service featuring caskets for two student actors playing victims of a car accident staged in front of the school. Also attending were the “living dead” teens, who wore black sweatshirts and moulage. The living dead were pulled out of their classrooms throughout the day on Tuesday every 15 minutes to drive home the message of the dangers of drunk driving.
Rowan Moser, a senior, played the student driver who caused the simulated accident and was sentenced to prison for causing two DUI-related deaths and the paralysis of another. He was dressed in an orange jumpsuit with handcuffs at the funeral and accompanied by an officer.
“The biggest highlight was seeing how it impacted everybody,” Rowan said, having been tried and convicted by a jury of his peers during a mock trial at a student retreat on Tuesday night, receiving both concurrent and consecutive sentences.
Northern Nevada DUI Task Force members Jim and Annie Holmes, whose college-bound son DJ Benardis was killed by a drunk driver on Interstate 80 in Reno in 1996, shared with Damonte Ranch teens their story about the consequences of getting behind the wheel after drinking.
The students who planned the event said Every 15 Minutes opened their eyes to considering everyone around them on the road when driving. Raynee Kendall, who was amongst the living dead, said she was honored to be part of the experience. Raynee had previously been in a real-life car accident.
“When I first came out here it was like being in my accident all over again and it made my heart sink,” she said. “People don’t pay attention and they don’t care about anyone but themselves when they’re driving. I think this program changed me. With spring break coming up, I hope the students understand it’s not just the people in the car accident; it’s everybody on the road.”
Manogue raises money for Heifer Int’l
RENO — Bishop Manogue students raised more than $1,100 for the organization Heifer International during their All-School Service Day on March 25. Heifer International provides families with livestock to enable them to secure a stable and hunger-free future.
Besides bringing and soliciting monetary donations for the organization, students listened to a presentation by a Heifer International volunteer and participated in awareness activities that included a 2-gallon water carry through the halls of the school. This activity helped students experience what it would be like to have to transport precious drinking water on a daily basis.
In addition, the school lunch that day was a “frugal feast” — one cup of rice and a small amount of water — to help illustrate how little many families in the world must subsist on.
To commemorate the service day, and as a reminder of their commitment to fight hunger, the students planted a Promise Tree, donated by Moana Nursery, on campus.
Coin drive at Coral Academy for Japan
RENO — The National Elementary Honor Society and the Geography Club at Coral Academy of Science elementary school, which has a student body of about 360 students, raised $1,566.78 in just 10 days for the Red Cross to be used to help the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Students conducted a coin drive to raise the money and presented a check to a Red Cross representative Thursday.
Graduating teen urges changes in high schools
RENO — When a local teen was given an assignment by his English teacher to write a paper suggesting changes at his school, he jumped at the chance.
Dakotah Ramirez, a 17-year-old senior and varsity baseball player at Wooster High School, came up with three ideas that could improve the experience for students, teachers and administrators at Wooster and other area schools.
“First, administrators need to listen to teens more and encourage them to get involved in setting the standards for school conduct,” Ramirez wrote. “This could be accomplished with a student council that works together with administrators to create a safe, happy environment at the school that motivates everyone to do their best and get along. Pressure and threats of punishment from administrators are not enough to inspire wayward kids. In fact, all it does is shut them down. What we need instead is an environment that is supportive, where new ideas and creativity are encouraged. This is why administrators need to start talking to student leaders to come up with solutions that will bring everyone together.”
Another change that would benefit the school is more support for athletic teams from the teachers, administrators and student body. Ramirez, who has played baseball for Wooster throughout his high school career, says that if there were more people in attendance at the games to rally the team, rather than badmouthing their losses, this support would boost the morale of high school athletes.
“Whether we win or lose, we’re all in this together,” he wrote. “People need to come to the games and show their support for the athletes who work hard to bring a strong sense of identity, school spirit and pride to everyone who is part of the school.”
The third and most important change to the school system requires increasing the budget. Ramirez believes that funding should be expanded to all programs. This stems from the belief that education is the greatest hope for our future.
“Teens need the chance to discover who they are and what they really want to do in life,” he wrote. “Exposure to different programs in art, culture, sports and other areas help kids figure out where their strengths and interests are. Kids who get the chance to find out what they are passionate about bring their motivation to everything they do, inspire others and grow up to become adults who bring their individual strengths to the world. By finding creative ways to expand funding to the schools, adults can give teens the experiences they need to create a better, brighter future for everyone.”
Ramirez will be graduating in June and is currently deciding where he will go to college. He has applied to and been accepted by nine universities.