Adams Central Elementary will be entering its second year of operations after the Adams Central School District brought all students in grades kindergarten through 6 under one roof in 2018.
The elementary is making a few changes for the new academic year, focusing more on school cultural improvements and less on operation changes.
The biggest change for the elementary is working to become a Marzano high reliability school. The high reliability school framework is an addition to the Marzano instructional framework, a research-based service designed to help improve educators’ ability to teach.
“We have good teachers here; we just didn’t have a name for what they were doing,” said Allyson Bohlen, elementary principal.
Bohlen said AC has been using the Marzano instructional framework for two years, but the high reliability framework focuses on schoolwide culture, rather than individual educators.
The Adams Central school board endorsed the framework at its July work session.
The high reliability school framework has schools go through five levels of development. The first level for the elementary to achieve is a “safe and collaborative culture,” according to the Marzano Resources website.
The culture of safety extends beyond having a secure building — which Bohlen said they already have — and includes a positive behavior system to discourage bullying for kids. It also includes safe risk-taking that encourages learning from mistakes, she said.
“It’s a cultural change in understanding that all kids make mistakes, all adults make mistakes ... By doing it this way, we are hoping it comes intrinsically instead of extrinsically,” Bohlen said.
Most of the school’s staff will be trained in the positive behavior intervention system before school starts. Bohlen said this lets cafeteria workers or custodians step in when a teacher isn’t around.
After the safety portion has been secured, the school will focus on a collaborative environment that standardizes instructional practices across all grades. Bohlen said this might include standardizing words like “analyze” or “evaluate” so that students will understand what teachers expect across classrooms and grades.
Marzano representatives will visit the elementary to determine if the school has achieved each level. Bohlen said they expect it will take at least a year to achieve level one.
“Each level adds more to the pot to make us a more effective school, which in turn should equate to better performance and achievement,” she said.
Bohlen said school officials are mostly happy with how the first year went in the new building. Despite some concerns, like traffic flow issues and larger class sizes, she said the year “went surprisingly well.”
The school is adding another sensory room for all kids who need it. Previously, students had individual education plans that included access to a sensory room but now one will available for all kids.
A sensory room is a space for kids to calm down or focus by limiting sensory input. A sensory room can include inflated balls, weighted vests or bean bags.
“We’re seeing more and more kids come to school needing sensory things like tactile stimulation, or heavy lifting or to be grounded,” Bohlen said.
The elementary also hopes to encourage parents to register for the after-school program. The program includes a snack; science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects; and art projects.
“It’s so new. We’ve never really offered anything like that,” Bohlen said. “I would like to see more people take advantage of that program.”
Another issue the school ran into was scheduling, specifically with recess. Bohlen said they have slightly adjusted recess times to make sure that there is a 25-to-1 student-to-supervisor ratio and teachers get a small break.
“A lot of schools are doing away with recess, especially in upper elementary grades. In talking with our staff, we all believe that we have kids that need to be outside expelling energy. They need sensory breaks where they can be tactile and physical with other things and develop play,” she said.
School starts Aug. 14 for the elementary.