Kids head back to school today

By Pat Sunderland

The 2015-16 school year is off and running, bringing the implementation of new K-12 math curriculum, a "magnet" school in the North Fork and implementation of a "breakfast after the bell" program at Lincoln Elementary School in Delta.

"Today, the yellow busses will roll, the school bells will ring, and the 2015-2016 academic year will begin for about 4,800 students and about 600 staff in Delta County School District," said superintendent Caryn Gibson. "Our schools have spent the past few months preparing for the first day, and we are looking forward to the new school year with enthusiasm and optimism. I am thrilled at the opportunity to work together with staff, students, families and our communities to help our students not only reach, but exceed their educational goals."

Gibson said the school district's primary focus continues to be the academic performance of students, school safety, professional development and parent/community involvement. "Everything we do -- from establishing a budget and operating a school nutrition program to providing instructional technology and building partnerships with the business community -- directly influences student achievement. We are committed to doing everything we can for the children of Delta County Schools."

In addition to the math curriculum, Delta County School District has revised the English language arts curriculum for all of the district's traditional schools.

Within the walls of Paonia Elementary School, the North Fork School for Integrated Studies embraces the Waldorf philosophy for families seeking additional options. Two classrooms are set aside for students in grades K-1-2 and 3-4. The two new NFSIS instructors, Lauren Ziccardi and Jenica Schevene, are among 40 new instructional staff members joining the school district this year. See pages A5-6 for photos and brief introductions to all 40 of the new teachers.

At Lincoln Elementary School, students will be eating breakfast in their classrooms every morning. While breakfast is an option for students throughout the school district, the "breakfast after the bell" program at Lincoln is mandated by a federal law that's now in its second year. Breakfast must be provided at no charge to all students enrolled in a public school where 70 percent or more students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches under the national school lunch program. Lincoln Elementary is at 74 percent free and reduced.

Food services director Rhonda Vincent says the menu options will vary from those served in cafeterias elsewhere, simply because of the necessity for portability. Students in grades 3-5 will pass through the cafeteria, picking up a bagged breakfast

to take to their classrooms. Breakfast will be transported to students in grades K-2, placed on trays awaiting the students' arrival.

While breakfast will be prepared for every student, there is no requirement they participate.

Working with Jennifer Magner, the new principal at LES, the district decided to add 10 minutes to the school day to avoid impacting instructional time.

Because the program is new to students, teachers and lunchroom staff, some "tweaking" may be needed down the line.

"We'll review the program after four to six weeks, after a routine has been established," Vincent said.

Participating schools are determined at the Oct. 1 student count, Vincent added. At that time, additional schools may be identified for the "breakfast after the bell" nutrition program next school year. Both BELA preschool and Garnet Mesa Elementary are close to the 70 percent level.

School administrators will also be watching enrollment closely. An anticipated decline of 150 students was built into the 2015-16 budget. Elementary, middle and high schools have a good idea of how many new students have registered; less clear is the number of students who have moved out of the area and have yet to request transcripts.