Shawnee Dispatch

Students back to hitting the books in Shawnee Mission, De Soto school districts

August 12, 2015

Summer vacation will officially be over and students will be back in classrooms for the 2015-16 school year beginning today in Shawnee Mission and De Soto school districts.

Students in grades one through seven and nine start school today in the Shawnee Mission school district. Grades eight and 10 through 12 in Shawnee Mission will start Thursday, with kindergartners starting Friday.

In the De Soto school district, classes will begin Aug. 19 for grades one through six and nine, with kindergarten, grades seven and eight, and grades 10 through 12 starting Aug. 20.

A number of changes are afloat in the Shawnee Mission school district. This school year will mark the second and final phase of Shawnee Mission’s digital learning initiative, with iPad Air devices being provided to all elementary students in the district. In the first phase of the initiative last school year, MacBook Air laptops were provided to all high school students, with middle school students and youths at 10 of the district’s 33 elementary schools being provided with the iPads.

Additionally, middle school students will learn with the help of laptops instead of iPads.

“A decision made to honor feedback we heard from our instructors,” Superintendent Jim Hinson said during a recent school board meeting. “Each elementary school will also receive a set of keyboards for use with the iPads. … So in the last 15 months or so, we will have rolled out over 30,000 technology devices to our students and to our staff as well.”

Parents and students can expect quite a few changes to school district buildings this year. Security upgrades have been made to multiple buildings, bringing all schools in line with the district’s security standard. Numerous maintenance projects also have been in the works, including roofing replacements, installment of new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and full-service cafeterias being built at several schools across the district. Ground will also be broken later in the year on new elementary buildings, including Benninghoven Elementary School.

“We’re really excited to start the school year,” Hinson said. “There’s a lot of energy in the air. We roll out the other 23 elementary schools for the 1:1 (technology) initiative, so that’s exciting for people. They see construction taking place, remodeling, renovation. So there’s a lot of enthusiasm.”

Some of that enthusiasm certainly is coming from parents of kindergarten and elementary-age children, who will get to hold on to a bit more of their hard-earned cash with the district’s decision to eliminate fees for all-day kindergarten and elementary school textbooks.

Other changes are coming to program offerings. The Shawnee Mission district this school year will expand its STEM-focused engineering program for elementary school students, called Project Lead the Way, to include more schools, including Bluejacket-Flint. Additionally, a new program will be offered: Starting New at Golf, or SNAG, in School. The program, developed by the Midwest Section of the Professional Golfers’ Association, will become part of the physical education curriculum for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Shawnee Mission teachers will train with the help of PGA professionals to teach SNAG in Shawnee Mission schools.

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