The first day of school is just a few days away for students on the Kenai Peninsula. As kids enjoy the last days of summer, teachers are already setting up classrooms and gearing up for the school year. There will be a few changes for students on the Southern peninsula, but a focus on individualized learning will be among the more notable changes.
West Homer Elementary will be one of nine schools this year to make some changes in the classroom. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is rolling out a three-year plan to provide teachers with professional development. The district partnered with Education Elements, an education-based consulting organization, to help teachers bring new teaching methods into their classrooms.
District spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff says the plan will be phased in districtwide.
“It might restructure in some of the classrooms. So, instead of having a traditional model where the teacher that has all the answers and stands in front of the classroom the entire time, there might be different stations in a classroom,” she explained, “different ways to approach learning that meets the needs of the students.”
Select teachers at wave-one schools began training with Education Elements last year and are now training their colleagues. Each will have freedom to find what works for their students, but Erkeneff says the district hopes teachers bounce ideas off each other.
“There will be some good learning that happens from the early adopters and the teachers that are running with this and loving it,” she said. “So, other teachers could model what they’re doing and adapt it to their own classroom.”
Teachers at wave-two schools have already begun their training with Education Elements. McNeil Canyon and Paul Banks elementary schools and Homer’s middle school will be among those to make the change in 2018.
School start times on the Southern peninsula are also shifting. Classes at high schools will be starting later, while elementary students will begin class earlier in the morning. Subsequently, that means younger kids will be going home earlier. That’s left parents around Homer scrambling find places for their kids to go after school.
Erkeneff says start times as well as bus schedules are posted on the district’s website. She also wants parents to know buses will be doing a practice run on Monday.
“So parents should not be confused when they see buses with lights running their routes and think that they missed the first day of school. The first day of school is Tuesday, but Monday, our transportation company will be doing a dry run with lights as if it was a regular school day.”
Susan B English in Seldovia also has a new principal. Joshua Hinds has taken over the position. He taught in Utqiaġvik for the last seven years, and he served as assistant principal there for the last three years. Hinds originally came to Alaska to teach near Bethel in 2008.
Enrollment districtwide is estimated to remain flat at about 8,800 students, but Homer High School is expected to see about 40 additional students and Paul Banks’ enrollment may drop by about 45 students.