8/25/15 On first day of school, students show they’re ready to ... Buckle down and LEARN

On first day of school, students show they’re ready to ...
Above, Google Chromebooks are in use Monday in Karla Robbins’ eighth-grade social studies class at Hawfields Middle School. Students on the traditional calendar got on the buses for the first day of classes Monday, ready to get the 2015-16 academic year up and running.

Photos by Isaac Groves / Times-News

Above, Google Chromebooks are in use Monday in Karla Robbins’ eighth-grade social studies class at Hawfields Middle School. Students on the traditional calendar got on the buses for the first day of classes Monday, ready to get the 2015-16 academic year up and running.

Buckle down and LEARN
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 8/25/15  
Reprinted with permission.  

Teacher Nicole Russell instructs her language arts students at Hawfields.  
Teacher Nicole Russell instructs her language arts students at Hawfields.  
Third-graders gather around Amber Honeycutt in her class at Elon Elementary.  
Third-graders gather around Amber Honeycutt in her class at Elon Elementary.  

   Elon Elementary Principal Jack Davern sported a colorful Jamaican dashiki on the first day of school in honor of the school’s new international flavor.

   “We are the window to the world this year,” he said.

   Year-round schools started in July, but traditional-calendar schools, which make up most of the Alamance-Burlington School System, started Monday.

   Elon, like some other elementary schools, became a Global Passport school this year. Each grade focuses on a different continent, and teachers from Visiting International Faculty bring a broader perspective to Elon’s 700 students.

   “How is it I’m a student in America, and how is that different from a student in New Zealand?” Davern said.

   Davern said this was more of an expansion than an addition. When a line of kindergartners passes the principal in the hall, teacher Aceneth Cruz prompts them to say “Good morning.”

   “Buenos dias,” Cruz said. “Buenos dias,” the class repeated. “Buenos dias,” Davern replied.

   This was the newest class in Elon’s longstanding Splash Spanish-immersion program.

   “With us having Spanish immersion, we were already there, so we just had to expand a little bit to bring that cultural diversity to everyone in the school,” Davern said.

   Elon has teachers from Jamaica, Scotland, Australia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Columbia this year — many of them hired through VIF.

   The district’s strategic plan puts a lot of emphasis on specialized programs in local schools.

   On its own, Elon also used its funds and increase in money for supplies from the district to buy more school supplies for students this year, such as composition books, folders and glue sticks. While parents were encouraged to have supplies like scissors at home, their supply lists were a lot shorter this year, Davern said — mostly just pencil boxes and backpacks.

   “We made a point to make sure the students start with a level playing field,” Davern said. “You name it, if they need it, we have it.”

   HAWFIELDS MIDDLE SCHOOL in Mebane did not start any specialized programs this year, Principal Greg Hook said, but did start something new: Social studies classes got Google Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops made to work with the wide range of Google’s online services.

   They let students get to class materials, turn in work electronically and get assignments, among other things. There are 12 carts with 32 of the Chromebooks, Hook said. He started with social studies intending to have those teachers teach others at Hawfields, and the district put more computers in students’ hands.

   “It’s a huge step for us,” Hook said.

   A lot of the first day of school at Hawfields was about getting students used to procedures and routines. Sixth-graders learned about moving from class to class, and how grades break down in different classes — though some classes managed to get to teaching.

   “All the time they put into procedure is worth it, though: It makes everything work so much better all the following days,” Hook said. “But they’ve all been encouraged to get to the curriculum on day one, because that’s why they’re here.”