School resumes with new technology

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 28, 2013

ST. CLAIR SHORES — New technology, new programs and new friends will greet students in St. Clair Shores when they head back to school after Labor Day.

Students in Lakeview and Lake Shore public school districts will head back to the classroom Sept. 3, and South Lake students will return Sept. 4 to find “quite a bit that is changing,” according to John Thero, director of instruction for South Lake Schools.

The district is opening up a new Great Start Readiness Preschool Program at Elmwood Elementary School this year for 4-year-olds who qualify. It’s meant to help meet the needs not met by the district’s Head Start program, which is full. With GSRP, Thero said, there are 32 additional spaces for children who qualify to attend preschool Monday through Thursday in either morning or afternoon half-day sessions.

Parents in South Lake Schools can still sign their children up, too, he said, by calling the curriculum office at (586) 435-1640. A new teacher and an aide have been added to the district staff to get the program, paid for with a state grant, off the ground, Thero said.

At South Lake High School, a new “mechatronics” program will debut for students interested in an engineering and robotics course that integrates the principles of mechanical and electrical engineering with computers and robotics to create “smart devices.”

“We’re building a new computer lab for that, along with we’ve got a virtual curriculum with some hands-on trainers for the kids to use,” Thero said. “We’ve got two sections of it right now, and we’re hoping to increase it as time goes on.”

Because South Lake will have the only program like it in the area, students from neighboring high schools can talk to their  counselors about signing up for future sections of the course to be taken at South Lake High School. And students who take the course, Thero said, will have the opportunity to earn some college credit for the course, helping them to move on to Macomb Community College — which has a similar program — and get an associate degree faster.

Thero said they are excited about the course because the district has been wanting to expand its computer and technology offerings to students. To that end, each school in the district will receive a new computer lab sometime this school year, to be paid for with some money left from the 2008 technology bond.

“We did invest some money from the general fund to support the mechatronics program because we see it as an area of growth and opportunity for the students,” he said.

Lake Shore High School students will see changes this year, as well. Superintendent Chris Loria said they rearranged classrooms this year to put all ninth-grade students in one wing of the school to create a separate place just for freshmen.

In addition, a new program has been added at North Lake High School, the district’s alternative high school for area students, called Success Academy. Ninth- and 10th-graders who are not on track for graduation will be able to take project-based courses to help them “get back on track and get them back to Lake Shore High School,” Loria said.

And as in the past years, the district will welcome 91 Chinese students to study along high school students this school year. There will also be 20 German students, some students from Spain and some Chinese middle school students who will come for a two-week exchange sometime during the school year.

This will also be the first year that students from kindergarten on up can take advantage of Mandarin Chinese language courses. Loria said the district’s Mandarin teacher will spend one trimester at each of the district’s three elementary schools to expose the students to the language. They hope to add a similar Spanish elementary language class in the next school year.

“Ultimately, we’ll have German K-12, too. Then kids, as they come to the middle school, will have experience in all three and will be able to decide which one they want to pursue,” Loria said.

Lake Shore Public Schools also purchased 154 new Chromebooks and 160 iPads for various levels throughout the district and is introducing blended classrooms, where high school students may be able to learn independently and be excused from certain classes some days during the week.

“Some students, if you’re a self-motivated student and you have a high GPA, you (may only) need to be a part of the lecture the second day,” he said as an example. “Whatever’s happening in the classroom, they are accountable for the day’s work (but Lake Shore is) trying to give our kids more options in education.”

The district has also hired about nine new staff members to account for a few retirements and the increased enrollment it has experienced this school year.

“Some of that is move-ins and some of that is School of Choice,” he said. “I see people moving back to St. Clair Shores, and that’s a good thing.”

Lakeview Public Schools is expecting enrollment to grow by 200 students this year, necessitating the hiring of 13 new teachers.

The students will be accommodated with new classrooms, including those in a new wing at Princeton Elementary School for students in the District Elementary Accelerated Academic Program and at the Wheat Educational Campus, where three classrooms will host secondary students — including those part of the Wayne State University collaborative.

Like South Lake, Lakeview has also put in new computer labs at its four elementary schools and a high school computer lab is being updated to accommodate specialized programs, like the Computer Aided Drafting class. The elementary school labs will also be equipped with interactive whiteboards and projectors so teachers can schedule class time to use the labs with their students.