Schools

North Thurston school board discusses hybrid grading scale and  Komachin Middle School remodeling

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The North Thurston Public Schools’  board met for a regular meeting last night.

Agenda items included a sports announcement, grading scales, the Komachin Middle School construction update, and a little joy brought by Woodland Elementary students.

Southsound sports conference

Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) representative Chuck Namit announced that WIAA leadership has decided to allocate certain regions of the state into smaller conferences in hopes of returning students to sports in a safer way.

“We are going to have an adjusted sports season. We are forming a new group called the Southsound Conference, which includes only Olympia, River Ridge, Yelm, Timberline, and North Thurston schools. We, like everyone else, are adjusting. This is us trying to get sports to happen in a safe manner,” said Namit.

First-semester grading change

 Also on the agenda was discussion of the first-semester grading scale. Assistant Superintendent of School Leadership Troy Oliver provided the board with information on the updated grading scale which replaces a student’s F at the end of a grading period with a mark of Incomplete, giving the student the opportunity to make up that grade with the assistance of staff and instructional coaches or in summer school.

“At the start of this school year, we went back to the standard A through F grading scale. If we would have started off the year with, you can't get an F, then we would have had a lot of students disengaged. We wanted to institute different grading scales and different grading practices to mitigate failure. Rather than have students get an F with no possibility of making that up in the future, the Incomplete grade gives those students and those families the opportunity to recoup that grade,” said Oliver.

Komachin Middle School Project Update

The meeting also covered a project update concerning the Komachin Middle School reconstruction plan. Project Manager Heather Hocklander listed the goals which would drive the project design. Construction is anticipated to start June 2021, with a final completion date of summer 2023.

Project goals include: improving bus and parent drop-off areas, field drainage to improve the usability of sports fields, improved use of plaza and play areas with new covered play area, improving natural lighting, building a larger commons area, improving the acoustics and seating in the gymnasium and eliminating the portable classrooms.

Joy from Woodland Elementary

The Board also heard from Woodland Elementary School Principal Casey Crawford and a few of his students who have been participating in hybrid learning since the fall. These students briefly spoke to the Board about what they have enjoyed most about hybrid learning. A video presentation was also shared, showing student artwork and videos of students playing their recorders.

Grants

 Another update included an announcement by North Thurston Education Foundation (NTEF) representative, Dave Newkirk, about the district’s receipt of a few grants, including $20,000 from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and $15,000 from the Nisqually Indian Tribe.

According to Newkirk, some of that grant money has already been allocated: “We have already purchased and distributed headsets for students and we are continuing to look for ways to help our students. We are also looking at providing a few scholarships in the spring.”

Equity

 Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) representative Mel Hartley provided the Board with updates on her work with the Multicultural Action Council, a group of teachers, students, and families that get together to discuss equity issues and help run the district booth at the district’s multicultural events.

“In our last meeting, we went over the grant applications and several grants were awarded. One of them was awarded to one of our elementary schools who is planning a collective experience book reading. This event will demonstrate how the multicultural lens works from all the kids in the building. The books will focus on various equity and social issues,” said Hartley.

Hartley also discussed the recent approval of the district’s Equity Resolution. “From the Equity Resolution, two groups have come out of that process. One group is the Equity Advisory Committee, which is a resource to help people get comfortable talking about these issues, to help people understand and address equity, and to help people become more culturally competent. Another group that came out of the Equity Resolution is the Equity Resolution Task Force, which meets twice monthly to monitor the many things that the board set as goals regarding the equity resolution,” stated Hartley

Continuous Growth: All Students Empowered and Future Ready

Also addressed was “continuous growth,” the fourth area of focus this year for Superintendent Debra Clemens. This goal focuses on continuous growth for all students, in all subjects with a larger goal of helping all students be empowered and prepared for the future.

A few ways the district plans to enact this is by increasing equitable access to and success in accelerated higher-level and specialized course options for all eligible students, increasing opportunities for dual (high school and college)credit, and addressing issues of equity where disparities exist.

One of the hopeful outcomes of the continuous growth plan is to gain increased participation and proficiency in accelerated, higher level and specialized course options (e.g., advanced placement, honors, dual credit). Right now there are nine dual-credit offerings and the district is looking to double that for the next school year.

The district will be partnering with Abl, a company that helps school districts provide equitable opportunities to help students succeed in school and in life. By partnering with Abl, the district will provide a comprehensive approach to college education and career readiness while also focusing on increasing equity. This comprehensive approach will specifically focus on academic preparedness, academic tenacity, and college and career knowledge.

School Retirees Appreciation Week

 Also on the agenda was the approval of Gov. Inslee’s recent proclamation declaring March 15 - 21, 2021 as School Retirees Appreciation Week in Washington.

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