Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Unpredictable Weather in NWI

I usually post about weather related school decisions each year and this year all that is happening in the southern portion of our country has me thinking about it early this year!

While I don’t anticipate any hurricanes, we do have fog, flooding rains, quickly changing temperatures, snow, sleet, ice, blowing and drifting snow, and extreme cold temperatures/wind-chills at some point during the school year.    As part of this, we carry extra layers of clothing, cover exposed skin, keep blankets and shovels in the car, drive slowly, and most of all look forward to the days when we don’t have to worry about the weather (or is that just me every morning?).

As we plan ahead for the rest of the school year, I hope these things will be helpful to you (and yes, will sound similar to what has been said in previous years!):

  1. Dress your child appropriately (warm enough clothing or cool enough clothing) for school each day.  Even if it is too cold in winter for outdoor recess, one can never plan when an emergency might take place and a school has to be evacuated or a school bus breaks down.  Wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of winter is going to be challenging–even if the evacuation takes less than a minute.
  2. Don’t know if there will be recess?  Send the snow pants, hats, gloves, boots, coats, and scarves just in case (and all labeled with your child’s name).
  3. Want to make sure you receive delay/closing calls?  We use a system called School Messenger.  It pulls your contact information (phone and email) directly from our student information system (Harmony). In order to receive the calls and emails, you must keep your information current with the school office.  You can also always find the information on our website, on our PTSC Facebook page, or on Dr. Schmidt’s Twitter feed.
  4. PTSC works with the Meteorology Department at Valparaiso University to get weather reports the night before school and the morning of school.  This information is utilized in addition to weather.com, weather bug, weather underground, and other weather websites that report Boone Grove data.  It does seem that often times there will be a wide range of expected weather predictions depending on which website is consulted.  This is also why it is good to have access to the VU Department of Meteorology to help us sort through the data.  On top of that, the superintendents in the area are in constant communication sharing the information they have learned.
  5. Do you wonder how school delay and closing decisions are made?  There is no formula for this.  On any given day I wake up between 4-4:30 am and check on the weather.  Most days there are not concerns and I head out for my morning run.  On days where I am seeing reduced visibility being reported through the weather websites we use, I’m out the door and driving the roads by 4:30 am.  If it is an issue of snow, I talk to my parking lot plow crew between 4-4:30 am to get my first look at conditions.  Sometimes they tell me not to go out on the roads, that we need a delay.  Most of the time I set out driving the roads myself.  I’m considering bus traffic, how much the county has already plowed (if it is snow), blowing and drifting, ice, and snow that continues to fall.  *It is important to note that I expect roads in NWI to be snow-packed and slippery–this is just part of where we live.  I’m looking for roads with large drifts that a car or bus could not drive through safely covering the entire road. There will be times that it is foggy.    For fog, I’m looking at the level of light outside when the buses will run and I’m looking at the amount of visibility throughout the district.  There may be patches where fog is much more dense–but I’m looking at conditions across the district as a whole and the amount of visibility across the district as a whole.  If there is a delay, I am then back out on the roads driving to see if conditions have improved so that we can open school.  I usually go back first to the areas that were particularly bad on my drive earlier in the morning.
  6. Do you wonder how wind chill delays and closing decisions are made?  If you haven’t–give it a few months!  There is also no formula for this.  It is a combination of many things.  How hard is the wind blowing?  How cold is the air temperature?  What are the expected wind chills?  Are my buses starting and staying running?  Additionally we have to look to see if the cold will break making a two-hour delay effective.  It is not a black and white decision–there are many factors which play into every decision.  A change in just a couple of degrees can be the difference between a regular day of school and a closing.  This is where we also consult the Valparaiso University Meteorology Department for accurate current temperatures and wind-chills along with a variety of online temperatures.  We do live in Northwest Indiana, and we will go to school in cold weather.  The decision looks at the extreme conditions of cold that are highly dangerous.
  7. I try to make a call for a delay or closing by 5:30 am.  Our buses are already getting ready for routes at that time.  Our first routes will start soon after that.  While it is nice to know the night before, that is not always the best decision.  If I think there is a chance that we will be able to open on time or not have to close school I will always wait.  My goal is to keep students safe, but also to keep students on the regular school calendar with school in session if at all possible.  That will mean many times that the decision must be made in the morning.
  8. If this happens on a Wednesday when we typically have a 30 minute delayed start–there will be no 30 minute delayed start.  The two-hour delay trumps this and school will begin 2 hours later than a regular school start time.
  9. Emergency Closing Plans:  We try to never cancel school in the middle of the school day or send students home early, but there are occasions when we must make a decision such as this.  Please make sure to construct a plan with your child for what to do if this were to occur.
  10. Virtual Inclement Weather Days:  For those new to PTSC, this is when the weather is too dangerous (cold or snowy) for students to attend school in their school buildings, so we hold school online.  Teachers publish their lessons online through Schoology (our Learning Management System) by 9am and students work on their lessons digitally while at home.  Students may contact their teachers and interact with them online all throughout the school day hours.  If the roads have cleared enough for passage, we typically try to open at least one building in case you need to accompany your child to the school to use a computer lab together to complete work.  Typically we have opened BGHS as it is centrally located.  As winter approaches, your child’s teacher will communicate more details.  These days are designed to take the time a student would typically spend in school to complete work.  We also learned that these are great for very snowy days when often times everything is shut down.  We will not use virtual online days as scheduled make-up days.
  11. Scheduled Make-Up Days:  So why do we still have make-up days on our calendar if we can do these all virtually?  Great question!  There may be days when it is not the best decision to have a virtual inclement weather day.  Let’s say our area is hit with an ice storm and power is out all across the district.  This would make it challenging to access our online content for the students and challenging for our staff members to post their online lessons.  For this reason, we have left them in our calendar.  If we do not need to use them, they will be a day off for students.  But if it is the best option for us to cancel school and have students in session on a schedule make-up day rather than a virtual day on the actual day of the inclement weather–then we will use that option.

This is just a glimpse to the thinking that goes into the weather scenario each day.  Hours are spent each day working to make the best decision possible at the time consulting a team of folks.  Sometimes we nail it.  Sometimes 10 minutes after a decision is made conditions shift.  The point is no decision is made lightly or without what amounts to on many days as hours of early morning work.  We want our students to be safe, and we also want our students at school learning.

Our PTSC standout this week is a whole group of people–our amazing bus drivers!  We had the opportunity to meet with them last week and they are passionate and committed to student safety and being a positive interaction for the first PTSC person kids see in the morning and the last PTSC person kids see to end the school day.  Thank you for all that you do for our students!

Do you have a standout to include in this section?  Email PTSC standouts to Dr. Schmidt at stacey.schmidt@ptsc.k12.in.us to make sure your standout is included.

Important Dates:

  • August 31:  PLE picture day
  • September 1:  Turn in shirt orders to Mrs. Prater at BGHS!

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  • September 4:  Labor Day-No School
  • September 13:  Online Day for BGHS and BGMS
  • October 11:  Online Day for BGHS and BGMS
  • October 16:  End of first quarter
  • October 19:  30 minute early dismissal for all students
  • October 19:  Parent/Teacher conferences for elementary students
  • October 23:  30 minute early dismissal for all students
  • October 23:  Parent/Teacher conferences for all students
  • October 24:  Parent/Teacher conferences BGMS and BGHS
  • October 26:  No School, Fall Break
  • October 27:  No School, Fall Break
  • November 15:  Online Day for BGHS and BGMS
  • November 22-24:  No School, Thanksgiving Break
  • December 22:  End of second quarter and first semester
  • December 23-January 7:  No School, Winter Break

Things to Know/Do:

  • Now hiring substitute teachers! Please contact Linda Dusek at the administration building if you are interested in substitute teaching and she will help you start the application process and discuss qualifications.
  • Do your friends and neighbors know how to find our weekly updates? Even if your neighbors don’t have kids in school tell them about our weekly updates so they can hear the great news of what happens at PTSC!
  • Every Wednesday is a 30-minute delayed start. If we have a 2-hour delay, students will arrive at school 2 hours after the regular start time for the building.
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The Art of Disagreement

Confession of a superintendent:  I’m starting to feel old.

I’ve been bound and determined to age in such a way where I stay young at heart and in practice.  I ran a marathon in my 40s and still run.  I like the latest tech gadgets and although I resisted buying the Apple Watch I now think I can’t live without it.  I have 19 month old twin boys and they just naturally keep me moving!

But my confession is that there are some ways I struggle with how society has developed. Yes, I have Snapchat on my phone, but I really don’t understand the allure.  I like to be connected to a world of information and to have the ability to learn just about anything I want to know how to do through a YouTube video, listening to a podcast from an expert in that area (while I run!), or reading an article I wouldn’t have had access to 30 years ago.

Where I struggle is in our online interactions when we read something with which we do not agree.  I’m sure you’ve seen it, too.  It’s the Facebook post that everyone feels the need to comment on about how they disagree or how the person must lack intelligence for holding such a view.  It’s the Tweet that starts a dialogue that ends up with character assassination because someone thinks differently than you do.  Have we lost the art of being able to disagree agreeably?  Have we lost the ability to disagree and not disparage that person?

I don’t know about you, but I hope to re-imagine the art of interaction that can be civil, respectful, intelligent, and even sometimes challenge assertions being made.  Can this ever happen in an online environment?  I’m not sure.  I think it is easier to post a comment than actually say that same thing to someone’s face. But certainly I see glimpses of online interaction that is full of patience, kindness, and humility–although those seem to be the exception to the norm.

And I think disagreement can be healthy.  It’s what I ask for in my administrative team–that we take an idea or concept and look at it in healthy ways from all angles as intelligent dialogue that pushes each other frequently results in an even stronger idea. We need each other to push thinking, challenge ideas, and even disagree.  But the strength of this process happens in trusting relationships in which this dialogue is not personal or attacking in any way.  As Aristotle stated, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Wouldn’t you like your kids to grow up knowing how to interact with others in respectful, kind ways?  Wouldn’t it be great to raise a generation knowing how to disagree with each other in more positive and productive ways than their parent’s generation?  I don’t think it’s too late for us!  Let’s work hard to model for our kids, students, family members, friends, and the world that this is possible and can be done!

Here are some helpful links as you work to model this cultural shift to your kids:

  1.  Common Sense Media (this is an AWESOME resource-and what some of our schools are using for Digital Citizenship)
  2. Common Sense Media article on online etiquette for kids
  3. Article on teaching kids to disagree in kind ways

I received an email from a parent last week sharing how impressed they were with their daughter’s teacher and the staff at Porter Lakes Elementary School.  Great job, PLE, for putting this kindergarten parent’s mind at ease as her child transitioned to school. Thank you for modeling what we are all about at PTSC:  Every Student, Every Day!

Do you have a standout to include in this section?  Email PTSC standouts to Dr. Schmidt at stacey.schmidt@ptsc.k12.in.us to make sure your standout is included.

Important Dates:

  • August 23:  BGHS and BGMS picture day
  • August 23:  BGE 4th grade Meet the Teacher night at 6 pm
  • August 31:  PLE picture day
  • September 1:  Turn in shirt orders to Mrs. Prater at BGHS!

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  • September 4:  Labor Day-No School
  • September 13:  Online Day for BGHS and BGMS
  • October 11:  Online Day for BGHS and BGMS
  • October 16:  End of first quarter
  • October 19:  30 minute early dismissal for all students
  • October 19:  Parent/Teacher conferences for elementary students
  • October 23:  30 minute early dismissal for all students
  • October 23:  Parent/Teacher conferences for all students
  • October 24:  Parent/Teacher conferences BGMS and BGHS
  • October 26:  No School, Fall Break
  • October 27:  No School, Fall Break
  • November 15:  Online Day for BGHS and BGMS
  • November 22-24:  No School, Thanksgiving Break
  • December 22:  End of second quarter and first semester
  • December 23-January 7:  No School, Winter Break

Things to Know/Do:

  • Now hiring substitute teachers! Please contact Linda Dusek at the administration building if you are interested in substitute teaching and she will help you start the application process and discuss qualifications.
  • Do your friends and neighbors know how to find our weekly updates? Even if your neighbors don’t have kids in school tell them about our weekly updates so they can hear the great news of what happens at PTSC!
  • Every Wednesday is a 30-minute delayed start. If we have a 2-hour delay, students will arrive at school 2 hours after the regular start time for the building.

13 Reasons Why

From speaking with a couple of parents, they have learned about the show and that their teens are watching it from conversations with their teens.  It is great when our kids come to us to talk about topics such as this.  However, not every child will start the conversation with us.  It is important to know what our kids are watching and be ready to start a conversation about this.  Looking for some help to guide you through that discussion?  Common Sense Media put out a guide for helping parents talk to their kids about this that you may want to check out.  You may want to watch the show with your kids (if they are going to watch it with or without you–with you is definitely better!)

The National Association of School Psychologists has also weighed in.  In a document they put out, they provide this guidance for parents (along with not recommending “that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series”):

  1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.
  2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs (found in the document), don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.
  3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.
  4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.
  5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers. See Preventing Youth Suicide Brief Facts (also available in Spanish) and Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips or Parents and Educators for additional information.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve read a lot online about the show/book.  Here are some resources I found particularly helpful:

My first inclination is to encourage folks to not watch the show.  But reality is our children will be exposed to this type of dialogue and media whether they watch the show or not and we need to be active and engaged in their lives as someone with whom they can discuss anything.  One thing I know for certain:  family support and connectedness are essentials for every child.  Every child needs a significant adult in their lives–be it a parent, and aunt, a teacher, a coach, an administrator, a school counselor, or a close family friend.  Navigating these waters is challenging, and our kids need support.  If you need help as a parent navigating these waters or have concerns about your child, don’t hesitate to contact your building administrator, school counselor, or a community based mental health agency.

Most of all, researching this has made me want to wrap my arms around my boys who are too young to understand all of this and think of the ways each day to give them reasons why they matter.  I know that is the cry of every parent’s heart.  Take time this week to have meaningful conversations with your kids, even if they are about tough things.

NWI Works Council Selects the following Porter County CTE Graduates for Prestigious Outstanding 21 under 21 Future Leader Award:   BGHS celebrates with Kennedy Starcevich on this honor!

Tonight four of our BGHS students will be inducted into the Porter County Career and Technical Center’s Honor Society!  This is a terrific honor!  Congratulations to Hannah Christy, Emily Barton, Truman Maxwell, and Eden Priest on their outstanding achievements!

Here is an outstanding email we received complimenting our student athletes and coaches for the track team that says a lot about our staff, students, and the families in Porter Township (AWESOME!):

“On Tuesday April 11th, your track team traveled to South Central for a meet.  I was one of the moms who volunteered to assist at the throwing events.  This was the first time myself and the other moms were completely in charge of the event and we were unsure of all the technicalities.  Your throwing coach could not have been nicer.  He assisted us with going over rules, explained exactly how to measure throws, and how to check for ‘scratches’.  In addition, your boys, I only helped with the boys events, were some of the most polite students.  Too often the positive behavior is not recognized and I wanted to be sure to let you and your school know what a pleasure it was to work with your student athletes.”

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On Thursday, April 13, 2017, Commander Charles of the Indianapolis Division of the USO came to Boone Grove Elementary to pick up donations the 4th and 5th graders at Boone Grove Elementary collected for deployed troops as part of their Valentine’s/Friendship Day celebration.  The children collected everything from razors and socks to snacks and playing cards.  We had over 2,000 items donated!
Commander Charles is a veteran that served in the Marines for many years before retiring and joining the USO.  He spoke to several students and told them there are approximately 400 troops set to be deployed this month and the items that were brought in by our generous Boone Grove Elementary families and students will be given to these troops as well as sent overseas to others already deployed.  Commander Charles explained to several students how much the troops appreciate any little donation they receive while they are deployed and that they usually only receive items around Christmas, not throughout the year.
Commander Charles also honored Kennedy Blashill with a USO Challenge Coin for her hard work with organizing and taking inventory of the donations received.  Commander Charles also gave the children that helped to load up his vehicle some fun USO sunglasses!
Thank you to each 4th and 5th grader for their selfless acts, for thinking about those that are making such scary sacrifices for our country, and especially to ALL the fourth and fifth grade teachers who were so patient, supportive, and letting us use a corner of each of their rooms to store the donations.  Boone Grove definitely has wonderful families!
[Pictured clockwise are:  Hayley Takacs, Annie Blanchard (secretary), Patrick Fuller (assistant-principal), Barb Blashill, Ashlyn Ramos, Nicholas Ramos, Leah Lewin, Natalie Meinert, Kennedy Blashill, and Madison Martin.]  –Special thanks to Barb Blashill for sending this to me!  We agree wholeheartedly and are grateful for the example our 4th and 5th grade students have set for the entire district!

Do you have a standout to include in this section?  Email PTSC standouts to Dr. Schmidt at stacey.schmidt@ptsc.k12.in.us to make sure your standout is included.

Important Dates:

  • April 24-May 26:  ECA Spring Testing Window
  • May 2, 2017:  Beyond the Influence Workshop Series on Marijuana by Todd Willis

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  • May 26:  End of Quarter 4/Semester 2–Last day for students
  • May 27:  Kent’s Run–The 10th and final Kent’s Run 5K will be held on Saturday, May 27th, at 8 am at Boone Grove Elementary School.  Over the past nine years this event has raised over $350,000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The entries are capped at 1,000 participants.  Race details and a link to the registration page can be found at www.KentsRun.com.  As always, there will be live music on the course, finisher medals for all participants, and a free pancake breakfast to all participants.

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  • May 30:  Last day for teachers
  • June 4:  BGHS Graduation

Things to Know/Do:

  • Now hiring substitute teachers! Please contact Linda Dusek at the administration building if you are interested in substitute teaching and she will help you start the application process and discuss qualifications.
  • Do your friends and neighbors know how to find our weekly updates? Even if your neighbors don’t have kids in school tell them about our weekly updates so they can hear the great news of what happens at PTSC!
  • Every Wednesday is a 30-minute delayed start. If we have a 2-hour delay, students will arrive at school 2 hours after the regular start time for the building.

2017 Legislative Session

I received the below information from Dr. Richard Frisbie, Purdue University, through the Indiana Association for Public School Superintendents.  If you follow the legislative session at all, you know how hard it is to keep current with the bills and their current status.  This is a good place to start if you are interested in following the bills impacting public schools.  

PTSC Standouts:

From Ms. Welbourne:

Congratulations to our BGHS Choir Students who competed in the State ISSMA Solo & Ensemble Contest on Saturday, February 18 at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis.

All 6 Ensembles earned Gold and Soloists earned 9 Gold and 2 Silver bringing the totals for BGHS Choir to 2 Silver Medals and a whopping 128 Gold Medals!!!  Woohoo!!!  

They have all truly worked hard to make Boone Grove proud!

Do you have a standout to include in this section?  Email PTSC standouts to Dr. Schmidt at stacey.schmidt@ptsc.k12.in.us to make sure your standout is included.

Important Dates:

  • March 10:  Fish Fry and Silent Auction at BGHS from 4:30-7:00 PM

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  • March 10:  School Safety Basketball Game featuring the Porter County Sheriff’s Department vs. last year’s winners–the PTSC Staff!  Come out and cheer for the PTSC staff at 5:30 PM!  A perfect night to attend this and the fish fry!

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  • March 12:  Cut-a-thon at European Style Salon and Day Spa in Valparaiso to benefit BGMS student, Payton Igras, and support her in her battle with Rhabdomyosarcoma.

    The cut-a-thon will be from 1-4 pm ( donation based with a min donation of $10).

  • March 15:  BGHS and BGMS Online Day
  • March 16:  End of Quarter 3
  • March 18:  Spaghetti Dinner Benefit for 2007 BGHS alumni Dennis Porter at Salem Methodist Church from 4-7 PM.

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  • March 27-31:  Spring Break, No School
  • April 17:  Snow Make Up Day or Break Day (Right now a break day!)
  • April 19:  BGHS and BGMS Online Day
  • May 26:  End of Quarter 4/Semester 2–Last day for students
  • May 30:  Last day for teachers
  • June 4:  BGHS Graduation

Things to Know/Do:

  • Now hiring substitute teachers! Please contact Linda Dusek at the administration building if you are interested in substitute teaching and she will help you start the application process and discuss qualifications.
  • Do your friends and neighbors know how to find our weekly updates? Even if your neighbors don’t have kids in school tell them about our weekly updates so they can hear the great news of what happens at PTSC!
  • Every Wednesday is a 30-minute delayed start. If we have a 2-hour delay, students will arrive at school 2 hours after the regular start time for the building.

ISTEP+ Round 2:  Online

Next week begins our next installment of the ISTEP+ assessment for grades 3-8 and 10th graders.  Following the ISTEP+ window our high school students will jump into ECA testing.  Our high school students this year are in a transition year where they have to take ECA and ISTEP+.

But isn’t the state transitioning away from the ISTEP+ assessment?  Yes, but we still have one more year in this current system (using a new assessment company for this year and next year).  While lawmakers have said that they no longer want to use the ISTEP+ assessment, they have yet to decide what comes next.

What is my hope?  My hope is for an assessment that measures individual student growth.  My hope is that this new assessment does not take long to administer.  My hope is that the new assessment model provides for in-the-moment data that actually helps to drive instruction and help close skill gap areas for students.  While I understand there needs to be summative data, if it can have summative and formative data in one quick and easy to use solution that would be ideal.  On top of that, it is my hope that this can be done without spending the unconscionable about of money that is currently being spent for a system that is not effective.

The purpose of great assessment is to drive instruction.  That requires timely feedback based on the individual student’s needs and growth.  What I will be sharing with anyone who will listen is that this is our time to make state assessment meaningful.  But for now, here comes ISTEP+ part 2!

 

PTSC Standouts:

Michael Skoda, our PTSC System Administrator, recently created his very first app!  After hearing teachers in multiple buildings talk to him about what tool they really needed and seeing that it currently did not exist (or at least for free), Mike took the dreams of the teachers and translated them into an application!  He took the initiative to learn what he needed to learn on his own, tested it out in many environments, worked with teachers to try it, and finally was able to roll it out to the district.  Great work, Mr. Skoda!

Email PTSC standouts to Dr. Schmidt at stacey.schmidt@ptsc.k12.in.us.

Important Dates:

 

  • April 20:  Online Day BGHS and BGMS
  • April 27:  Kindergarten Round-Up at Porter Lakes Elementary School

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  • April 29-May 1:  BG Drama Club’s Production of Beauty and the Beast
  • May 27:  Last day of school for students
  • June 5:  BGHS Graduation

Things to Know/Do:

  • Now hiring substitute teachers! Please contact Linda Dusek at the administration building if you are interested in substitute teaching and she will help you start the application process and discuss qualifications.
  • Do your friends and neighbors know how to find our weekly updates? Even if your neighbors don’t have kids in school tell them about our weekly updates so they can hear the great news of what happens at PTSC!
  • Every Wednesday is a 30-minute delayed start. If we have a 2-hour delay, students will arrive at school 2 hours after the regular start time for the building.
  • We are also looking for bus drivers to drive our extra-curricular runs. If you are interested, please apply online. It’s a great way to earn some money and attend extra-curricular events!