Niles schools wrapping up renovation projects

Published 9:46 pm Monday, August 29, 2011

For students in Niles Community Schools, the clock is ticking on summer break and with the Labor Day weekend comes the inevitable first day of school.
For teachers, staff and administrators that means the hallways are already buzzing with preparations for full classrooms.
One school that will be tackling everything from new programs to new campus additions is Niles High School.
Principal Jim Knoll says as the days wind down, officials are looking at three key areas: making sure the campus and staff are easy and that professional development is under way.
“It’s exciting every year getting started because it’s new and it’s fresh but it is also … for me, you just want to make sure everything is going to go well to make sure it’s a good experience for the kids and their families,” Knoll said.
At Niles High School, construction has been ongoing all summer. There is the renovation for the new Cyber Cafe and the new Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy. While work continues on New Tech, Knoll said carpeting was being laid Monday afternoon in the Cyber Cafe and he expected it to be finished in time for the first day of school.
With parents and students expected at Monday night’s open house, Knoll said the school’s staff would be going over key information with parents including schedules, website information and enrollment.
Final enrollment figures are not available until after the start of the school year, but aside from being a key indicator for a district’s financials — state funding is doled out per student — it’s also key in how administrators and teachers plan for the students who will be filling its hallways.
Howard-Ellis Elementary School was just one of the district’s elementary schools that saw an influx of students after the closing of Eastside Elementary School. But even with that school’s reopening as a magnet school, Howard-Ellis is preparing for a full house.
Principal Michelle Asmus said even though there was a little relief in school population — preliminary figures show an enrollment of 780 students at both school buildings, down from 838 last year — the numbers still make for a bustling building, and the school’s staff has a full slate of initiatives for the year.

“Things are shaping up well here,” Asmus said. “Teachers are very busy. We were this morning in a staff meeting, setting the tone for this upcoming year.”
That tone is resting on three primary points: a focus on the new district wide writing initiative, Collins Writing; getting teachers together in data teams to help drive instruction; and developing its culture in the building.
Howard-Ellis’ open house will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight.
Students will find out who their teachers are and those teachers will explain some of their planned routines. Asmus said most parents come with questions about transportation and busing.
“We hope to have someone here, a transportation representative to answer some of those questions,” she said.
Earlier this summer, Niles Supt. Richard Weigel voiced concerns over the school’s parking lot and busing pick up and drop off.
“It’s busy here,” Asmus said. “We have the most Schools of Choice students” as well as students intra-district transfers.
Asmus said there are hopes for physical construction to the area for late this year. In the meantime, a pick-up and drop-off plan has been developed for parents and will be handed out during the open house; that plan will also be sent home with students.
“We get a large turnout at the open house,” Asmus said. “And we also this year hope to have a chance for our parents to help us raise some money.”
During the open house, two Chrysler vehicles will be on hand for parents to test drive. The school receives money for every test drive.
With new facility structures, new programs and new students, it will be a busy year for the district.
Bringing what is a full slate of new initiatives to fruition will be on every school official’s agenda and even down to the youngest pupil, doing so seems to be set in the foundation of that education buzz word: culture.
“It’s all about higher expectations,” Asmus said.
When it comes to students, Asmus said school officials want to see them achieving and creating a positive atmosphere. And the expectations continue for teachers as well.
“We’re a learning profession,” Asmus said. “And we are expecting that our teachers are lifelong learners both behaviorally and academically.”