North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Arlington schools prepare for start of new school year

 

August 30, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Deputy Chief of Police Dan Cone, right, and Brian Lewis, Arlington School District's executive director of operations, inspect a recently-installed gate at the entrance of Eagle Creek Elementary and Post Middle School.

The Arlington School District is preparing for the new school year with new initiatives to improve facilities and education for students.

Officials at the district have adopted a new strategic plan and district logo, a new English curriculum for all students, and have been working on "Arlington Ready," a district-wide effort to improve the look and safety of all campuses in the district.

Education

One of the most significant changes for teachers this year is the adoption of a new English/language arts curriculum for all grade levels.

"We're really excited to have a K-12 curriculum that connects together completely," said Kari Henderson-Burke, Arlington School District's executive director of curriculum.

The last time the district adopted English curriculum was in 2001. "The previous curriculum materials were looking pretty dated," said Henderson-Burke.

Since that time, state English standards have changed and teachers had to find ways for students to meet those new standards.

"Teachers were spending a lot of time seeking out material to help students meet those standards," said Henderson-Burke.

"So this allows staff to use their time better," she added.

Henderson-Burke also hopes that this curriculum will provide "a higher level of K-12 unity," she said.

For the second year, the Arlington School District has decided to provide the majority of school supplies required to its students, instead of asking parents to provide them.

"The intent here is to make sure we don't have any economic barriers for children to be successful in school," said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations at the district.

"We do still have some supplies required, but they are very limited compared to what we asked for in the past," he said.

The district will continue to focus on attendance and encouraging students to attend school.

Initiatives like a dragon at Eagle Creek are meant to keep kids showing up.

"There was a dragon and for every day that the school had greater than 95 percent attendance they got to color in a scale," said Lewis.

By the end of last year the majority of the scales were filled in, he said.

In addition to continued initiatives, the district's community truancy board will go into it's second year.

The Washington state legislature mandated that all districts have a community truancy board by the 2017-18 school year, and Arlington worked to start their board last year before the deadline.

Lewis said the board is meant to encourage students to attend school and offers a way of discouraging truancy that is not as legally punishing as other methods.

The district has decided to participate in the statewide "Open Doors" initiative, meant to help former students, up to age 21, have a second chance at a diploma.

"This is intended to help students who may have left school for a variety of reasons but still want to complete. So that's the reason we're starting it, to give them that opportunity," said Lewis.

The program will be held at Weston High School and have flexible hours.

"This is a chance for them to finish their high school course requirements and get a diploma or a G.E.D.," said Lewis.

Lewis said the district is expecting students from all across the area.

District Goals

District officials spent some of their summer revamping their strategic plan.

"We simplified the goals and attached actions and metrics so we can gauge our effectiveness at meeting the goals," said Lewis.

The four main goals of the district, according to the new Strategic Plan, are "Student Learning and Achievement," "Safe and Caring Environment," "Resource Stewardship" (making sure the district is spending tax dollars appropriately) and "Parent and Community Partnerships."

In addition to the new plan the district is rolling out a new logo, motto and mission statement.

The new motto is "Educate, Prepare, Inspire."

The updated logo will be phased in district-wide, including on signs and vehicles, probably when those items need to be replaced, said Lewis.

Facilities

The school district began their "Arlington Ready" over the summer in an effort to improve the look and safety of their buildings.

"We want to increase the attractiveness and the safety of the campuses as much as we can," said Lewis.

Many of the district's buildings have been washed and painted, and the parking lots have been re-painted, among other efforts.

Aesthetic improvements do more than just make the school look better though.

"There's a correlation between student achievement and building cleanliness," said Lewis.

"Students feel more valued if their buildings are clean and that translates into higher test scores," he said.

Lewis said the district has looked at all the low-cost ways they can increase security as well this summer.

Custodians have been putting the room numbers of all room on their windows, so in the case of an emergency a first responder will be able to find the room they are looking for from the outside.

Landscaping teams have worked to remove shrubbery and the low-hanging limbs of trees that make it easier for someone to hide.

A gate was also installed for the entrance of Eagle Creek Elementary and Post Middle School.

"Working with Arlington Police Department we found this complex of buildings had the highest incident of crime," said Lewis.

That crime was mostly theft that happened at night, which they hope a new gate will prevent.

Lewis said that facilities staff at the district are preparing a recommendation to the school board for a bond issue, which could appear as soon as the February 2018 ballot.

The district has a project list based on their 2014 Facilities Master Plan and a couple of public surveys the district has sent out.

The biggest potential project on the bond would be a rebuild of Post Middle School.

The school was built 37 years ago and hasn't seen any significant renovation since then other than the addition of a couple of classrooms.

The "open campus" Post Middle School consists of a number of different buildings, which presents weather and security concerns, and a new campus would likely be a single building, said Lewis.

A soils evaluation would also need to be done to see if the district wants to rebuild at the current Post Middle School or a new location.

"At one point the building is within 50 feet of a slope," said Lewis, and the district needs to re-check if building again at that site is a good location.

Lewis said some parents worry about Eagle Creek Elementary, but "Eagle Creek is much further away [from the slope] and it's much different. There's no threat," he said.

Washington state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction rated Eagle Creek as a "low" risk for landslide and Post Middle School as "moderate to high," he said.

Security could also be one of the main focuses of the bond, providing surveillance cameras and better locks for classrooms across the district.

Christopher Andersson

Cresha Ann McLane, substitute custodian and summer painter for the Arlington School District, helps apply a new paint job to Presidents Elementary on Aug. 24.

Lewis also hopes to put in vestibules at schools to secure the entryways. Vestibules would allow for doors to be locked after school starts so that entrants would be forced to go through the office to enter the school.

Other potential bond projects include adding classrooms to Arlington High School, an Arlington High School multi-purpose room, improvements to the flooring of Eagle Creek Elementary and Kent Prairie Elementary, and drainage improvements to athletic fields across the district.

District officials plan to present a bond proposal to the board of directors during the Oct. 23 meeting.

"If they do adopt before Dec. 15, the measure could be on the ballot for the election on Feb. 13, 2018," said Lewis.

Officials also hope to hold public workshops the week of Sept. 11 and the week of Oct. 16 to gather some final community feedback on the potential bond measure.

 

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