Expect some changes at UCS this fall

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 28, 2015

 Hanna Vuich, 12; Sara Fisher,13; and Hannah Morse, 13, make their preparations to enter eighth grade as they leave Jeannette Junior High School in Sterling Heights on Aug. 27. Students received schedules, had photos taken and did other registration and orientation activities.

Hanna Vuich, 12; Sara Fisher,13; and Hannah Morse, 13, make their preparations to enter eighth grade as they leave Jeannette Junior High School in Sterling Heights on Aug. 27. Students received schedules, had photos taken and did other registration and orientation activities.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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Just as students accumulate skills and knowledge throughout their years of classroom learning, so is the Utica Community Schools district continuing to adjust how it educates, according to school officials.

Classes throughout the school district are scheduled to begin Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day.

Superintendent Christine Johns said students have been registering, and she was at a couple of junior high schools recently.

“There is just a lot of positive energy at our schools — optimism and hope,” she said. “We are ready to go. Our buildings are fantastic. Our buses are ready to roll.”

Among the new things happening this year, the school district is completing the rollout of an elementary-level language arts curriculum that promotes student literacy.

Although older elementary students already had this program in place last year, it is now being fully implemented for students in kindergarten through second grade this fall, according to Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Robert Monroe.

“This will complement nicely with our K-2 personalized, blended learning model,” Monroe said.

According to UCS, the program specifically tries to build young people’s comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonics and phonemic awareness.

Besides teaching how to comprehend the English language, UCS will also invest more effort in teaching kids computer literacy starting at the elementary level. Students will get more rigorous instruction at secondary-level engineering and computer science classes, according to officials.

“Many of the jobs in the future will require students to have some experience with coding,” Johns said. “They’re learning to think logically. They become problem solvers.”

The district is also introducing ways to further prepare students for college. It will encourage parents of high schoolers to use a Family Connection website to help them explore college, career and scholarship options. Johns said the resource will help students with their pre- and post-graduation plans.

With the help of The College Board, which runs Advanced Placement programs, the district will try out a program to prepare high school algebra students and English students for Advanced Placement courses in those fields.

In terms of standardized testing, high school juniors will be taking the SAT college entrance exam instead of the ACT. In addition, the preliminary PSAT exam will now be given to juniors instead of sophomores, school officials said.

The school district’s resources and logistics are also undergoing some changes. The district has changed some bus stops to make the system more streamlined, and it has bought 20 new buses thanks to the $112.5 million bond issue that voters approved in 2009, officials said.

Besides the buses, the district recently invested in lighting upgrades, and roof and door replacements. UCS also announced high-speed Internet improvements and laptop purchases.

In a statement, Johns said her district’s goal is to create a “college culture” that encourages additional education after graduation.

“This college culture ensures our students are successfully prepared for these post-secondary experiences, whether that includes a university, community college, trade school or service to our country,” she said.

Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

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