ESCANABA - As summer comes to an end, area youth are preparing for the beginning of the school year. For students at Escanaba Area Public Schools, that means some changes are in store to fully implement the district's reconfiguration plan.
This year, Lemmer, Webster, and Soo Hill elementary schools will serve grades kindergarten to third grade, while the former middle school has been renamed the Escanaba Upper Elementary School - housing grades four through six.
The Escanaba High School complex will house seventh and eighth grades in a wing of the building, known as Escanaba Junior High School, while grades 9-12 will be referred to as Escanaba Senior High School.
Lexie Frossard, left, and Natasha LeMire, climb a net — one of the new pieces of playground equipment at the Escanaba Upper Elementary School. School starts Sept. 4 for area students. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire said faculty and staff will be ready for students on the first day of classes.
"With our construction project concluding, and due to the hard work of our custodial staff over the summer, the buildings will be prepped and ready for students to start school on Sept. 4," said Lemire. "The Upper Elementary has added new playground equipment, Lemmer Elementary has a new playing surface on their playground, and technology tools have been increased across the district. Our staff members are ready, too. With the grade-configuration plan complete, teachers are busy making their classrooms welcoming for students."
Some students may be attending school in a new environment for the first time in a new building. The Upper Elementary School, for instance, has shifted its focus a bit to accommodate fourth-grade students in their building this year.
"The big change is we are moving more towards an elementary, which means we are more of a self-contained classroom ... for both fourth and fifth grade," said Upper Elementary School Principal Steve Martin. "We are doing that while at the same time, trying to keep a lot of the middle school supports that meet the unique needs of sixth-graders as we get them ready to transfer to the junior high/high school."
For instance, Martin said one change is there will be more supports in grades four and five available for interventions in math and reading than in previous years, since students in lower grade levels tend to need more support; as a student gets older, they typically need less.
"In sixth grade, we've got kids that are a little older, a little more mature, and we try to capitalize on that," said Martin. "They have locks on their lockers. They change classes every 55 minutes. They don't have recess, but they have a longer lunch. That's how their day is structured in seventh through 12th grade, so we try to prepare that for them so when they get to the junior high school, it's not a whole new thing for them."
This year, the Upper Elementary has installed some new playground equipment to accommodate both fourth- and fifth-graders, since there is now double the amount of kids using the playground. The new equipment was selected for its design to be more appealing toward kids of an upper elementary grade level, said Martin, who thanked the PTO and Brunette & Sons Excavating for all their help in preparing the new playground. He also credited Upper Elementary staff, who installed the new equipment.
One other major change for the district this year is its implementation of full-day kindergarten, which the school board voted to approve in December.
"Full-day kindergarten will give children an experience to help them grow academically and socially," said Lemire. "Our teachers will have more time to use diagnostic and prescriptive teaching strategies to address children's learning needs on a more individual level."
She noted kindergarten is also a time to set the foundation for helping students known how schools work.
"In kindergarten, students will learn rules and procedures to help them later on in life," said Lemire. "They will learn how to cooperate with other children to create things and to solve problems. We are excited to see full-day kindergarten in our schools."
Each of the schools will host special open house events next week for parents and students to meet staff and find their classrooms. Soo Hill Elementary School will hold their open house Aug. 28 from 5 to 6 p.m., while Escanaba Upper Elementary School will also hold their open house Aug. 28 from 6 to 7 p.m. Escanaba Junior and Senior High schools will have their open houses from 4 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 29, while Lemmer and Webster Elementary schools will host theirs Aug. 29 from 6 to 7 p.m.