Cassville R-4 School District students will return to classes in less than two weeks. The 2012-13 school year begins on Tuesday, Aug. 14.
"We will have our back-to-school in-service for new teachers next Tuesday and Wednesday, and then all staff will report on Thursday and Friday of next week," said Superintendent Richard Asbill. "We are excited about our new employees. We have four new teachers coming into the district this year. That is the lowest number of new teachers we have had in many years."
Parents might be surprised to learn that Cassville is beginning classes one day earlier this year. Asbill said the change was made in order to more closely align the R-4 district schedule to the schedule created for the Southwest Area Career Center in Monett, where around 100 Cassville students attend vocational classes.
The earlier start date was also selected in the development of the overall school year calendar. School days were scheduled to provide professional development opportunities and accommodate parents interested in traveling during holidays throughout the year.
"We will not be having the early out days this year," said Asbill. "That worked well for professional development, but it raised some childcare issues for parents."
All Cassville R-4 building offices will be open on Monday, Aug. 13. Although teachers will not be required to be at school, administrators will be available to discuss bus routes with parents and answer other questions.
Most bus routes will remain the same as those offered during the 2011-12 school year. The district will continue to offer the express route to the Golden and Eagle Rock area.
"That is not a full route," said Asbill. "By using this, there is around 30 to 45 additional minutes for kids to sleep in the morning before boarding their bus. We are excited about continuing that route. We feel it is a good thing for both parents and kids."
Asbill encourages parents who are new to the district to contact a building office or the bus barn to obtain information on the bus their child will be riding and the pick-up schedule.
Parents should also be aware that the district's lunch meal prices have increased by 10 cents this year. Breakfast and milk prices will remain the same as last year.
"We had not made changes in the last several years," said Asbill. "We have done our best to limit the impacts to families, but an adjustment was necessary this year. The new breakfast and lunch standards have had some fiscal impacts on the district."
Both students and parents will also be slightly impacted by a building project that will begin on the school campus this year. A new multipurpose facility and FEMA shelter will be constructed where the middle school field house was formerly located. The project will be paid for using a FEMA grant.
"We are still awaiting FEMA design approval," said Asbill. "As soon as we have that, we will move forward in the bid process. Our architect has been doing a lot of preplanning. He is looking at how to cordon off the construction area.
"We will be losing a little parking," said Asbill. "That will impact our football fans this fall."
Asbill said the R-4 School Board continues to discuss design options for the interior of the building.
"They are looking at new flooring options that will be more conducive with performing arts," said Asbill. "They are also looking at upgrading seating to seat back chairs to provide more comfort during events, including elementary programs."
Board members are also discussing lighting and acoustical options for the facility.
"We want this to be something the community can really be proud of," said Asbill. "We are excited to get started on the project."
The Cassville School District is also excited about a new partnership with the Cassville Family YMCA, which will offer an afterschool program for kindergarten through sixth grade students this year.
"This is a great opportunity for us," said Asbill. "Participation in our after care program had dwindled over the last few years, partly because of local daycares offering afterschool options. Our after care program ended last year.
"The YMCA is doing great things, including afterschool programs at the Y," said Asbill. "They offer outstanding programs in other parts of the community, and this was a great opportunity for a partnership that will provide an education and activity program in our intermediate school cafeteria."
The afterschool program will later be moved into the FEMA facility, said Asbill.
"Our budget impacts are significant this year, but we don't want that to overshadow the good things that are happening at Cassville," said Asbill. "We have a new focus on technology and are completing a wireless instruction project and 'bring your own technology' initiatives that will provide students with greater access to information and data.
The current technology efforts were put in motion several years ago under the direction of past-Superintendent Jim Orrell and eMINTS teachers.
"We want to expand what they put in place," said Asbill. "We are very excited about the work our teachers have done in the classroom to help students improve by getting back to the essential learning goals. We want our students to take that success to the next level when they begin a career path or education to a career path.
"We want our students to be more than competitive," said Asbill. "We want them to be the model."
Asbill pointed out a new program started by Terry Jamieson, middle school principal, and Melanie Stringer, middle school assistant principal.
"They have developed a focus on literacy and intervention for all students," said Asbill. "This will pay great dividends this year and for years to come. They set up a system of support for students that will change the culture of how we prepare students for high school."
The district is also preparing for the new state and national MSIP and common core standards requirements.
"We will continue to offer an environment where students feel welcome, safe and want to be and with a focus on rigor, relevance and relationships, we will ensure that this school is all our students, teachers and the Cassville community can hope for," said Asbill.
The following projects were started or completed on the R-4 Campus during the summer: renovations in the high school business rooms; a storage building project; resurfacing and repairs to campus parking lots; and renovations to the primary roof.
"Our maintenance and custodial departments did an amazing job of getting ready for students to come back to school," said Asbill.