Time to put on thinking caps: School is back

The 2017-18 school year is here for south Pierce County.
As you read this, students are either gathering for their first day of classes Sept. 6 in the Eatonville School District or getting ready for the same Sept. 7 in the Bethel School District.
Here’s some of what’s in store for students and their families over the roughly nine months between now and the end of the school year next June:

Good morning, class, my name is …

As happens every year, both districts will have some new teachers: 19 in the Eatonville district, 126 in Bethel.
The Bethel newbies were welcomed in August at the annual South County New Educators Breakfast, held at Pacific Lutheran University’s Olson Auditorium. Along with dining, they listened to speeches by Bethel superintended Tom Seigel and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck. The congressman talked about his wife, Paula, a former teacher and principal in public schools.
New teachers from the Franklin Pierce School District also attended the breakfast.

The principal's office

New principals and assistant principals include:
• In the Bethel district, principals Stephanie Weinheimer (Roy Elementary), Dave Cordell (Kapowsin Elementary), Tom Mitchell (Elk Plain School of Choice), Seth Humphrey (Liberty Middle), and Shannon Leatherwood (Spanaway Middle), and assistants Danielle Fischer (Rocky Ridge Elementary), Rebecca Hannath (Clover Creek Elementary), Chisa Marshall (Nelson Elementary), Sarah Sunday (Spanaway Lake High), Melissa Munson-Merritt (Camas Prairie Elemenary), Michele Gilbert (Graham-Kapowsin High), Alicia Whitlow (Naches Trail Elementary), and Renae Beatty (Cedarcrest Middle).
• In the Eatonville district, principal Allison Shew (Columbia Crest A-STEM  Academy) and vice principal Sheelah Ridgway (Eatonville High School).

Outdoor Kindergarten

In the Eatonville district, OK means Outdoor Kindergarten, a new experience for incoming students.
At Eatonville Elementary School, the new curriculum accompanies the Kindergarten Jump Start event in August that will follow students through their first year. Learning has been woven in an outdoor, project-based farm and nutrition curriculum at a three-acre, former family farm in Ohop Valley that's owned by the district. Plans for an outdoor preschool are in discussion, as well.
The farm site is being blended with the district's STEM    (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academic programs.

Yes, they still use textbooks

The expanding use of digital technology in schools hasn’t done away with textbooks.
In the Bethel district, for instance, millions of dollars are tied up in textbooks and related supplies. The job of keeping track of them districtwide is the book repository’s. Workers there use an automated library management system called Destiny to stay on top of which schools are losing or gaining classes and which textbooks need to be replaced. The books are generally replaced every six years, and new additions need to be checked in, barcoded and put into the system for tracking.

Roll call: Where the students are

The schools with the largest enrollments in the Eatonville and Bethel districts are expected to be:
• In Bethel, either Graham, Frederickson or Clover Creek elementaries (each of their number of students has been in the 700-plus vicinity in recent years), Frontier Middle School and Graham-Kapowsin High School. The latter pair, which are neighbors on the same property, have had about 700 and 1,900 students in recent years.
• In Eatonville, it’s Eatonville Elementary School, Eatonville Middle School and Eatonville High School, with numbers in the high 300s for the first two and pushing 700 for the high school.
Eatonville has six schools (the middle school and high school, two traditional elementaries, and Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy, which has elementary and middle school grades). Bethel has 16 elementary schools, six middle schools, and four high schools. It also has four specialty schools – Bethel Elementary Learning Academy, Elk Plain School of Choice, Pierce County Skills Center (a consortium of school districts that includes Eatonville and is administered by Bethel), and Bethel Acceleration Academy.
Total enrollment in the districts (approximately): 1,950 in Eatonville, 18,000 in Bethel.

Ride the bus

The Eatonville School District has 36 school buses for transporting students within the district's 460 square miles. This year's bus routes and schedules were published in the Aug. 30 edition of The Dispatch.
The Bethel School District's 200 school buses transport approximately 10,000 students each school day. In general, the ones getting rides live more than one mile from the elementary school or more than two miles from the middle or high school they attend.


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