The following is a message from P.C. Superintendent Paula Crane, written for Fairbury News, as students head back to school across the district this week:
We are excited to welcome Prairie Central students back to our amazing learning community.
We have been hard at work over the summer preparing for their return! Our teachers have completed various professional development opportunities and coursework in their never-ending quest to grow and improve instruction for students. Our custodians and maintenance employees have been working diligently in the heat to prepare a clean, safe, and aesthetically pleasing learning environment. Our administrative team has spent weeks working on literally every aspect of the educational process to ensure a smooth start. We are about to begin a great school year filled with engaging, meaningful and rigorous work in our classrooms, combined with a plethora of special events and extracurricular activities for students.
As always, we will continue to focus on teaching and learning; the business we are so passionate about. In these times, however, we must sustain our commitment to providing a safe learning environment for our students. Several projects are underway that will help us improve in this area. First and foremost, very soon when you visit any Prairie Central school, you will be asked to present an ID in order to enter into our buildings. Your identification, an official state ID or driver’s license, will be scanned to provide information about registered sex offenders, guardianship issues, and orders of protection. Parents must provide us timely information in the form of official documentation on new guardianship and restraining orders in order for us to help enforce these.
In addition, we are nearly finished installing a new communication system in all buildings to provide more efficient and effective communication on a day to day basis as well as during a crisis. The system can provide communication to all schools at one time if needed. Research shows that effective communication is key to saving lives during a school safety event. This same system provides us with our daily office to classroom communication as well as provides us with auditory alerts, “bells”, to indicate when the class period is changing at our high school and junior high levels.
Also with safety in mind, our high school office has undergone extensive renovation over the summer. Instead of entering into the cafeteria during the school day, our visitors will be asked to enter into our new daytime visitor entrance on the south side of the building. The entrance will be clearly marked. Once in the building, you will be able to communicate with office staff, who is able to grant access to the rest of the building. Students will continue to enter and exit the building before and after school as they have in the past, with these entrances being highly supervised during these times.
Finally, our administrators have been working this summer to improve our building safety plans, and to create and refine reunification plans for an evacuation event. All buildings will conduct trainings and drills with teachers and, as developmentally appropriate, with students. Although it is impossible to predict what we are preparing for, we will continue to work to educate our staff and students about safety protocol.
Again, we will continue to focus on teaching and learning, as education is our purpose. Our improvement process is ongoing, and we have set aside time once a month for teachers to collaborate on what we need to do to best meet the changing needs of our students. As our job becomes increasingly challenging, we are committed to offering the best possible education to our students. We have new initiatives, and are continuing with those that are proving successful.
At the high school level, we are continuing our “Freshmen Cohort” program, which was in the pilot/research stage last year. This innovative way of providing instruction in the core areas cut freshman failure rates drastically. At the grade school level, we will begin piloting a new reading series with a program that has been heavily researched and proven to be successful with students with a wide range of abilities. At our junior high level we will be focusing on mathematics instructional techniques, and have employed a mathematics instructional coach who will focus on the instruction of junior high students as well as help us improve instruction at the upper elementary and high school levels. Additionally, we will continue to focus on the social and emotional health of our students by offering support through curriculum and counseling.
As always, we want what is best for all students. We are looking forward to a new year of positive energy and great opportunities for kids!