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What’s new in schools

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Students attending Indianapolis Public Schools and schools in all of the eight township districts in Marion County will return to class next week, with the 2007-08 academic year beginning either Monday or Tuesday, depending on the district.

Students and parents will notice several adjustments made in programming, policies and structure of facilities, with the most sweeping changes occurring in IPS and Wayne Township.

Here’s a look at recent changes announced by several local school districts:

Indianapolis Public Schools

Perhaps the most significant and apparent change for IPS this year is implementation of its uniform policy, which is designed to reduce the distraction and conflict that can sometimes take place due to clothing.

IPS officials have reported that nine out of every 10 students have complied with the policy since one elementary school and three middle schools opened early last week.

This school year IPS will utilize a new partnership with the Indiana University School of Education to raise high school graduation rates and better prepare students for college.

“IPS recognizes the importance of K-12/higher education partnerships to ensure greater higher education access, for our students,” said Jane Kendrick, IPS assistant superintendent for high school education.

As part of a $450 million capital improvement project, IPS has completed a new building for School 44, built new science labs and lockers and renovated classrooms at Broad Ripple High School, established a new technology center at Tech High School and implemented a new air conditioning system at Northwest High School

Finally, IPS will expand its ban on tobacco use to areas outside of the classroom. Students and staff will be prohibited from using tobacco products anywhere on property owned or leased by IPS, even if they are sitting in their own vehicle.

Decatur Township

Starting this school year Decatur Township will dismiss students one hour early every Monday. The extra time will be used for teachers to participate in courses to help them better meet the needs of their students.

The township is also completing a renovation of Decatur Central High School, designed to convert it from being one traditional high school to five small learning communities to match the learning styles of different students.

“We have this special opportunity to make curriculum changes and facility improvements at the same time,” said Superintendent Don Stinson.

Lawrence Township

Lawrence Township officials say no major changes are expected this year, but they are devoted to building on existing goals.

“We’re making efforts to close the achivement gap,” said Nikki Woodson, director of staff development and communications for Lawrence Township. “Part of that is increasing cultural competency among our teachers.”

Woodson noted that the district is also expanding its project learning options, which are designed to present students with unique projects that will help prepare them for careers in the workforce.

Perry Township

Perry Township Schools officials will continue with the implementation of its diversity initiatives, especially the use of home advisors at each school who develop stronger relationships with staff, students and parents to enhance the process of integration.

The district is also completing use of its $1.1 million Technology Plan Grant from the state, which has enabled it to upgrade technology and communications systems.

Pike Township

Changes for the Pike Township system, which is celebrating its 60th year as a school system, include a stricter dress code that will be outlined in detail in parent/student handbooks.

Given that the district has been quick about renovating or replacing old facilities and recently completing its Freshman Center, no major changes have been announced for this school year. Construction is being done on the new Eastbrook Elementary School, which will open in 2009.

Washington Township

Superintendent James Mervilde told the Recorder that the township is in the process of completing a $14 million Natatorium and has completed upgrades on the football field at North Central High School.

“The upgrades will make for a more comfortable place to play and watch a game,” Mervilde said.

The township is also making stronger efforts to raise achievement levels and is experiencing numerous staff changes due to retirements and transfers, with Northview Middle School and several elementary schools hiring new principals.

Warren Township

This Eastside district of over 12,500 students has made strong efforts to implement measures designed to increase security, including security cameras, hallway sweeps and new building safety procedures.

The district will also continue to make upgrades to its Walker Career Center as well as the Renaissance School.

Wayne Township

The school system, which has existed in one form or another since 1892, has renovated the former Fulton Junior High School, and will reopen it this school year as Chapel Hill Seventh and Eighth Grade Center.

Students will also be able to enjoy renovated facilities at Chapel Glen, Chapelwood, Maplewood and Stout Field elementary schools.

In light of concerns over property taxes, however, the district will reduce the size of an ongoing project to renovate Ben Davis Junior High School by focusing only on a portion of the building used for an early college partnership with Vincennes University.

“As a Wayne Township resident and taxpayer, I, as are the board members, aware of and sensitive to the increased property taxes in the community,” said Superintendent Terry Thompson.

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