By Steve Woodhouse
Pella — Superintendent Greg Ebeling sat down and shared some of the big things on the horizon for the Pella Community School District.
This week and next, the district is rolling out approximately 1,100 laptops to students in grades 7-12 for Apple's 1:1 program. Every teacher already has a similar machine, which was first received last year.
The district will continue to release early every Wednesday when there is a regular, five-day school week. Early dismissals are for professional development.
Ebeling said the district is working hard on professional development to help teachers mold their students into complex thinkers. Pella wants its students to think critically and creatively to improve their skills. Ebeling said this is a "big part" of what the district is doing.
This year, parents will also be able to access an online student management system known as Infinite Campus. Last year, the district utilized a program to monitor grades called JMC. Ebeling describes Infinite Campus as an enhanced version, that offers more robust information.
School administration is currently working on facility planning. Last spring, voters in the district approved a $29 million bond issue with 75 percent support.
The first project for the money is a career academy, to be built near the existing high school on the practice football field. Ebeling hops to send this project out for bids by the end of September. If all goes well, Ebeling hopes to open the bids in October and have construction begin this spring.
When completed, the career academy will offer several different programs, some of which are already being offered. They include welding, a Certified Nurse's Assistant program, Foundations of Education (a first class on a student's road to becoming a teacher, taught by Central College), Construction Trades and a Criminal Justice course. Officer Dave Beukelman of the Pella Police Department is teaching the criminal justice course. The career academy should be open in January 2015.
Other facilities being planned include a new Lincoln Elementary and a remodeling project at the Middle School. All facilities will see security enhancements in the future. Ebeling said the district was already planning security enhancements before the December 2012 incident in Connecticut.
The new Lincoln Elementary will be built on the same property. The entrance of the new building will face Main Street and Sunken Garden. This project should begin next spring, and go through the 2014-15 school year and open for the beginning of the 2015-16 year.
Impact of the construction will be felt. Parking and playground space at the existing Lincoln will be at a premium.