Parents ask to send children to Washington Elementary
Families of students attending Pence Elementary School received a letter earlier this month about the school’s second year on the Schools in Need of Assistance list for student test scores not meeting proficiency levels established by federal guidelines of No Child Left Behind.
Schools are required to offer students a choice to transfer within the district to another attendance center.
District curriculum director Marci Dunlap told the school board Monday families have requested transfer of students to Washington Elementary School.
“I want to emphasize this is not just a Pence problem, it’s a district problem,” she said.
Iowa’s accountability system requires all schools to annually demonstrate improvement toward the state’s annual goals in reading and math.
Pence Elementary School is on the SINA list for 2012-13 school year student reading scores; not all subgroups scored a high enough proficiency score to make Adequate Yearly Progress.
“We have students who are improving and growing,” said Dunlap.
She has to keep a running tally of class sizes and balance class sizes because transferring students out of one building to another creates imbalances among classes and for teachers.
“I’ve had to close a couple of sections,” said Dunlap.
The sections closed right now, not taking additional students for this school year are:
• Washington Elementary School kindergarten, second and third grades.
• Libertyville Elementary School, first grade.
• Pence Elementary School, fourth grade.
“This could change later, if students transfer out,” she said.
School board member Jeri Kunkle suggested going to grade alignment attendance centers would better support teachers for collaboration and teaching.
“If we had all kindergarten through second grade students in one school, and third and fourth grades at another, I think it would solve problems,” said Kunkle.
Dunlap said teachers and administrators want to do what’s best for students.
In other news, Auxiliary Services Director Fred McElwee said the district has an opportunity to collaborate with local food vendors.
Chris Estle, director of Jefferson County Public Health and Jan Swinton, local food coordinator at Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa, talked with the Fairfield
school board Monday about a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant and how it will be used.
“Fairfield is unique in terms of its food and interaction with food suppliers,” said Swinton.
Hometown Harvest serves 13 counties in southeast Iowa. Swinton is working with 36 school districts in the region.
“Two schools have been processing summer harvests this summer and we are constructing a large greenhouse in Fairfield to be able to have fresh produce year-round,” said Swinton.
“The greenhouse will be constructed on North Ninth Street behind Schaus-Vorhies,” she said. “The first part is going up next week. We’ll be using waste heat from Schaus-Vorhies blast furnaces, and they are providing free water at $1 annual rent for the land for 25 years.
“Many of you know it was a superfund site. We are replacing soil in the growing spaces. We’ll grow strawberries year-round with 1,500 hanging plants. The USDA grant pays for the structure,” said Swinton. “Alliant is providing $38,000 and Jefferson County Public Health is contributing fencing and signage.”
Swinton said the greenhouse will work with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. It will not be certified organic, Swinton said however, pesticides and insecticides will not be used.
“It will be natural grown, but not certified organic, which costs a lot of money,” she said. “And we’ll be using Eddyville mulch, which is not certified organic.”
The greenhouse will be a learning center and model, drawing many from throughout the Midwest to visit, she said.
“I’ve been at Bloomfield High School a few times this summer when the lunch ladies have been processing fresh produce for use during the school year,” she said. “I was there when they processed more than 28 bushels of green beans purchased from a local producer in Montrose. They also did oven-roasted tomatoes with basil and spices to use to make spaghetti sauce later in the year.”
Fresh produce grown in the Fairfield greenhouse will be purchased by the Fairfield Community School District, providing fresher ingredients and more choices of fresh produce.
“The first year of production will include a lot of salad greens,” said Swinton. “I’m not a greenhouse genius, but I have experts on my team, serving on committees. It will be a research project and an open classroom.
“I’ll have a database system connected to 60 thermometers to measure soil temperature, air inside and air outside the greenhouse,” she said.
Estle said the open classroom concept and the greenhouse is part of the health department’s goal for children to understand more about food and how it makes the journey from growing in dirt to the plate.
“As we look at renovations at the high school, we’d like to see how we can add features to help in processing the fresh food,” said Superintendent Art Sathoff.
“Bloomfield has a flash-freezer, and we’d like one someday.”
Swinton said Bloomfield also has an oven that uses heat, convection and steam at the same time, cooking foods quickly.
“This use of fresh produce will help with our Blue Zones goals,” said Kunkle.
Board member Bob Waugh said the greenhouse could be a good learning opportunity.
“I’d like to see our vocational-technology and agriculture classes involved,” he said.
McElwee said the project is a good fit for the district because school meal guidelines changed last year, and the district began serving more greens.