Raising the bar…

By on August 30, 2017

New Denver Elementary playground, high school library upgrades highlight first day of school

Just before noon Monday, third grader Sunny Young charged the new playground behind Denver Elementary School, first zipping down the roller-bar slide then hanging from the chin-up bar alongside her friend Lauren Bausher.

Last year, Sunny didn’t pay the playground equipment much attention. Its outdated metal parts not only made it boring; some pieces had been removed by Cocalico School District after a safety audit.

But a $110,874 renovation completed this summer has transformed the outdoor play area, making it inviting and accessible to kids with different abilities and needs. On the first day of school, students flocked to the slide behind Sunny, spun each other on a plastic merry-go-round and cashed in some of the energy they’d built up during their first few hours of class.

Principal Angela Marley, entering her 10th year in that role, crawled under a lime-green rock slide to look at molded animal shapes alongside David Bozhko, another third grader.

“The goal is to make the opening day run as smoothly as you can,” said Marley, who arrived at 6 a.m. to begin checking emails and fielding calls from parents who needed information about buses, lunch or other final details. “It’s that last-minute crunch.”

Across the district, Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser reported that everything went as planned. She spent the morning helping freshmen find their way to classes at the high school, then hit each of the district’s other four schools.

“I just sensed a lot of excitement,” said Musser, starting her second full school year at the helm of the 3,100-student district. “There was an eagerness to see what happened during the summer.”

At Cocalico High School, about 30 students reported to the library after having minor issues with their school-issued laptops (or not having been assigned one). Library media specialist Ginger Mickey said that was a big improvement over 2016-17, when “about half the student body” showed up needing assistance.

High school Principal Chris Irvine said his staff made some changes on how laptops were distributed on the first day, making more of the trouble-shooting possible in individual classrooms.

That left Mickey available to welcome students to the library, which, after a $92,564 makeover, now includes more group-project areas with large video monitors, more comfortable and flexible seating and dedicated maker spaces where students will focus on exploring science, technology, engineering and math.

The spaces have been equipped with a small 3D printer, a 3D scanner, a vinyl cutter, textile equipment and programmable robotics kits from Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Monday, Mickey was happy to help students with a good, old-fashioned library subject: reading. She recently added 25 new books to the student collection, and 12th-grade English teacher Elizabeth Yankowsky brought her students along to learn about them through a scavenger hunt. Another 100 new books, ranging from biographies to young adult fiction, are set to arrive shortly.

A few students were already settling into sway chairs and cozy, café-like settees with books and laptops in hand.

Meanwhile, at Cocalico Middle School, four new interventionists started. Principal Bradley Testa said two work with students in English language arts and two in math, supporting, enriching and accelerating student learning.

The school also revamped its core math curriculum and its CREW teams, designed to promote small-group and peer mentoring opportunities.

At elementary schools districtwide, teachers are piloting a new social studies curriculum.

At Denver, fourth graders are switching classes each day for lessons in humanities and STEM subjects.

Teacher Jill Lutz spent her first morning teaching a coding exercise with building blocks and having students create a paper-and-straw glider to test their engineering skills.

After showing off his gliders’ flying capabilities, one student promised to work on it more at home.

For Marley, that was a sure sign of a successful first day.

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