Preliminary enrollment report, pilot program update shared in school board meeting

October 11, 2018

The Norfolk Public Schools district is growing and evolving, according to reports from district administrators.

Student enrollment is up 2 percent from last year and four schools have shown significant growth, based on preliminary enrollment data for the 2018-19 school year, Superintendent Jami Jo Thompson said at the school board meeting Monday night.

The data shows an increase of 84 students than last year, Thompson said. The biggest increase in the schools is at Bel Air Elementary School, which has 33 more students — 22 as a result of finishing a third track, or concurrently taught grade level, at the building.

Woodland Park Elementary School also had a large increase of 17 students, prompting the district to add an overflow second-grade classroom, Thompson said. The middle school and junior high also grew by 20 and 26 students, respectively.

The biggest facility and staffing needs are at the elementary schools and middle school, Thompson said. She and Associate Superintendent Bill Robinson are analyzing facility needs to make further recommendations.

Thompson said enrollment growth is projected to affect the high school in the 2019-20 school year, with significant growth occurring by 2022-23. She will provide a more detailed report once the Nebraska Department of Education provides official 2018-19 enrollment numbers.

The district also has been “extremely busy” with target-based instruction and learning, including a pilot using Discovery Education science at the middle and junior high school, said Beth Nelson, director of teaching and learning.

Discovery Education provides standards-based content for K-12 education with digital textbooks, multimedia content and professional development, according to its website.

Fifth- and sixth-grade teachers, as well as all seventh- and eighth-grade teachers, are piloting the program, Nelson said. The pilot started the last week of September and will extend to the first week of December.

Nelson said using Discovery Education is part of an effort to create a more comprehensive and interactive education experience.

“With the change in science standards to be more integrated and more thought-provoking, they need materials to complement that,” she said.

The teaching and learning team has been collecting weekly feedback from educators within the pilot program to determine its effectiveness.

“We have very strong teachers in the middle school,” she said. “I appreciate and want to hear their opinions about it, because they’ll vet that information more critically than I would.

“Selecting materials needs to be a slow and conscientious process, and there’s a lot to consider and investigate before we actually move forward with it.”

Board member Patti Gubbels recommended that an upcoming study session focus on the district’s Discovery Education pilot program.

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