No new buildings began construction in 2012 for the Fort Dodge Community School District, but still it was a notable year of progress.
Fort Dodge Senior High launched its new trimester schedule.
"Making the transition with the schedules was probably where we spent a lot of our focus," Dave Keane, FDSH principal, said. "So far I have not run into some real serious issues. I think people have adapted to it pretty well. I'm pretty pleased with the way the staff handled it, with rewriting curriculum last spring and really preparing themselves and then having a positive attitude when they came in this fall."
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Branden Ausborn, left, Aric Lehrkamp and Mark Froisland study calculus together in Fort Dodge Senior High’s newly renovated student center. The study space is enhanced with 21st century technologies.
In addition to a new schedule, Fort Dodge Senior High also enhanced its curriculum in 2012.
"We added some new classes, and those have been very well received," Keane said. "The students and the teachers have done a great job with those as well."
Keane said there were some growing pains.
"The first time we went through Understanding Social Systems we left the civic action project towards the real end of the course, where the second time through we were smart and started it a little bit sooner, so the kids weren't crunched at the end of the term," he said. "Those are the types of things you can't anticipate until you've done it, in terms of how much time certain things are going to take."
He added, "I think with the new courses people have been real positive, our kids are getting it and doing some great things."
In addition to a new curriculum, the high school also underwent some renovations. According to Keane, the senior high's new student center is "awesome."
"It really is such an improvement," he said. "The student center, with the unstructured study, has been a great thing because kids are highly motivated to make sure they qualify for the unstructured study time. And we've got some technology in there now. So far, again, the students have been so responsible in that area."
Keane is optimistic about 2013, the end of the current school year and the start of the new school year.
"This spring's looking real promising," he said. "We'll finish up the year with the trimester and we'll be able to do some evaluation of it."
A project will be re-evaluating the school's advisory period, Dodger Time.
"We've struggled with it a little bit since I've been here," he said. "At this point, we're really going to turn it over to the students. We've got a group of students really interested, and they're going to get together and really start taking ownership of it and do a lot of the planning. I think that will help. I think students know what students will buy into a lot better than Dave Keane does."
While groundbreaking for the district's new middle school took place in 2011, most of the construction of the building took place in 2012. By summer, the building was enclosed and by the end of the year, painting of the rooms was taking place.
"I think things are going very well," Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said. "They are moving forward ahead of schedule in some areas and on schedule in others. There's been, like with any construction project, some really good things and some things we've had to work through. All in all, things look good."
The new building benefits all Fort Dodge residents, Van Zyl said.
"The first people there will be our students and staff, they'll be going to an excellent facility," he said. "As a community, as people have the opportunity to drive by and see the investment they've made I think that's positive for everybody."
The school is expected to open ahead of the 2013-2014 school year.
In 2012, Riverside Elementary School officially became Riverside Early Learning Center with Lis Ristau serving as its principal.
"It's been a wonderful endeavor this year," she said.
The school, which has 165 children ages 3 to 5, is partnered with Head Start, which has a classroom in the building. All the classrooms are full.
It is only the start, Ristau said.
"We hope to continue keeping this building going with our preschool children. We hope to partner more with Head Start," she said. "One of the things we'd like to look at is maybe even some after-care. Preschool classes get done at 1:30. If there's a way we can provide some day care for the children after preschool, or after school, that's one thing we're looking at as a district as well as with some of our other partners."
The transition from elementary to early learning center was an easy one, Ristau said.
"It was a little bumpy at the beginning of the year but the kids seem to know the expectations," she said. "We've been working a lot with positive behavior intervention supports. The four B's: being kind, being respectful, being responsible and being safe, and the children have learned those and what those expectations are, and I think that has been very helpful, as well. And we do a lot of celebrating when we accomplish those four B's."
To enhance the environment, Fort Dodge Senior High Art Club students volunteered their time in 2012 to paint murals on the ELC's walls. Ristau calls it a "wonderful addition."
"They've gotten the entryway done and they're going to come back after probably January, February, and do some more murals in the upper level as well," she said. "That's helping the building look more appropriate for our younger children."
The benefits of having an Early Learning Center are many for the district, Ristau said.
"We're all together, and the collaboration between the staff is a lot easier since we're all in one building," she said. "We've been able to partner quite a bit more with Head Start, so I think having us all in one building has helped with that. One of the struggles we have always faced with our preschool is having playgrounds that are appropriate for that age of a child. We're happy it's all here in one building."