Niles seeks ways to boost enrollmentPublished 7:21pm Sunday, February 27, 2011
That’s the challenge posed to many a teacher, school administrator and district official across the country when it comes to finding ways to improve education and cater to students in the 21st century while resources dwindle.
The Niles Community Schools district went through a multitude of changes last year with the closing of Eastside Elementary School, the hiring of a new superintendent and a slate of other changes as a result of cuts in state funding.
Now, the district is once again looking for ways to appeal to more students, increase enrollment and provide an education for the 21st century.
When he made a presentation to the district’s board of education, Superintendent Richard Weigel outlined preliminary ideas for generating revenue for the district.
Days later, he discussed more of those options at length.
And he’s starting with the district’s youngest students.
Last year, former Superintendent Doug Law changed the kindergarten structure from half-day, everyday kindergarten to a full-day every-other-day program, which he said would save the district an estimated $246,000.
In the 2011-2012 school year, Weigel said parents of incoming kindergartners will now have an option between all-day, everyday or half-day, everyday kindergarten classes.
“The research shows very clearly that all-day kindergarten” can help in removing the achievement gap sometimes experienced by students, he said.
A flier available for parents reads, “This year, parents spoke and we listened.” Registration for kindergarten at Northside Child Development Center begins March 8 with a meeting at the school at 7 p.m.
Another meeting at the school will follow at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14 and Saturday, April 16 at the Westside Administrative Center at 9 a.m.
Offering up an option for kindergarten, Weigel said, is intended to provide more flexibility for parents, so they can choose the type of program that works for them.
Blended learning classes
While plenty of conversation has been had over the new New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy, Weigel said those students who do not take part in the academy will find new options for learning available to them as well.
“One of the new things we’re starting next year is blended classes,” Weigel said.
Through blended learning classes, he explained, teachers will meet with students in their classroom two days out of the week and conduct classes for the remainder of the week online.
All together, with numerous classes taking place through the week, the teacher is still standing in traditional classroom setting with students four days out of the week but students are only in the setting two days and working through an independent type of study for three days in a new cyber cafe at the high school.
The teacher will have one full day to use as a prep period.
“The advantage is I’m sitting in my class, you’re in my class on Mondays and Wednesdays and on the other days you’re researching, you’re doing your work online,” Weigel said.
Students at Niles High School will also benefit from Rosetta Stone when the program is implemented next year to provide additional options for learning world languages.
The software, Weigel said, will be used “to help with some of the world language classes. We want to give our students the opportunity to take Chinese, Russian,” and other languages in addition to what is already offered to students.
The program posed the same kind of cost Weigel said he would incur with the purchase of a textbook.
The distance learning program GenNET is another program to be offered in the coming year.
“We’re trying to expand our opportunities for students,” he said.