Big and New: 5 good things you didn’t have last year

A new school year deserves more than the same old stuff, and for the 2014-2015 year (which begins Monday, by the way) LCPS has on its calendar a quintet of improvements that are not only new, but big and new. These changes affect large segments, if not all, of our student population and, taken together, constitute a major step toward preparing all students for success in college, in the military or in the workforce.

Here are five developments that are changing public education in Lenoir County:

iLCPS. That’s Individualized Learning Creates Personal Success. For a couple of year, LCPS has been studying and planning for a radically new approach to the way teachers teach and students learn — a new approach that centers on the introduction of iPads into our classrooms, not just a few iPads but an iPad for every student. This year, the plan goes into action. Provided iLCPS is approved by the Lenoir County Board of Education and the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners next month, we expect to begin deploying iPads in grades K-5 by mid-November. In the meantime, we will continue doing background work in both technology and professional development for teachers and will spend a lot of time keeping parents and the general public clued in on what is coming.

Following this blog, as well as our website (www.lenoir.k12.nc.us), our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/lcpsnc) and our Twitter feed (@lcpsnc), is a great way to stay current. We’ll also be delivering information on iLCPS non-digitally via handouts and face-to-face wherever we can. (If you’re interested in having an LCPS administrator speak to your organization or civic group about the iPad initiative, call the school district’s PIO at 252-527-1109, ext. 1022.) A good place to start learning about iLCPS is this slide presentation shown to the school board last week. iLCPS Board Presentation pdf It lays out the three-year timeline for iPad deployment and explains the organizational structure in place to develop and maintain the digital infrastructure, to support teachers and provide information to the community.

No-cost meals. Last school year, LCPS made no-cost breakfast available to all students. This year, we’re adding lunch. That’s right — no student will have to pay anything for breakfast or lunch served at school. Or maybe we should say, no parent will have to pay. Of course, the “no cost” part doesn’t extend to the school system, but because LCPS meets requirements for federal reimbursements, we expect most of the cost to be covered. The rest we expect to fund from revenue generated off cafeterias’ a la carte items.

Obviously, no-cost meals are a boon for parents, but why is the program good for students and, more importantly, for academic improvement? Healthy students are better students, and being served two nutritious meals each school day makes for healthier students. Eliminating the cost of these meals for all students also eliminates the stigma associated in the past with “free” meals and should increase participation in breakfast and lunch. Besides, what school system worth its salt wouldn’t want to see its students adequately fed and assured of their self-worth.

College comes to high school. One of the school district’s goals is to provide students with the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school. Essentially, we’re expanding the model so successful at Lenoir County Early College High School; but instead of high school students going to Lenoir Community College, as they do at Early College, this year LCC instructors will also go into classrooms at our three traditional high schools.

LCPS has offered college-level classes at Kinston, North Lenoir and South Lenoir high schools for a while, but mostly they’ve been offered online. That’s a tough setting if you’re studying math or one of the sciences. This year, South Lenoir juniors and seniors have the opportunity to take pre-calculus algebra, general biology and expository writing in face-to-face classes with LCC instructors. North Lenoir has added the expository writing class, as well as automotive and machining classes taught by LCC faculty. At Kinston, LCC support has allowed the addition of several classes, including EMS, welding, masonry, automotive customization technology and sustainable agriculture.

Bringing college classes to high school campuses not only makes the instruction more available, but also eliminates the expense to students. How’s that for opportunity?

Biomedical and game design. Speaking of college and careers, our CTE Project Lead the Way program is venturing into two new areas of instruction in fields where the future is bright. For the past several years, PLTW has focused on an engineering curriculum. That will still be the case at South Lenoir. At North Lenoir, the focus is changing to biomedical, an area of emphasis at North Carolina’s community colleges and one of the fastest growing career areas in the state. Kinston High is offering a new course called Scientific and Technical Visualization and is planning next year to offer the next step in this instruction, Game Art and Design.

These are the jobs of the future, and we want our students to begin preparing for them now.

Expanded Pre-K. Each year, LCPS enrolls hundreds of kindergarteners. Unfortunately, most of them are not ready to do kindergarten work. Getting off to a slow start dramatically increases the chances they will fall farther and farther behind each year. One of the answers to that problem is better preparing kids for the K grade by enrolling more of them in Pre-K. This year, we’re expanding the Pre-K program at Banks Elementary and adding a Pre-K class at Contentnea-Savannah. We’re having to grow this program a little at a time because of the expense, but it is our hope that more Pre-K slots will open up each year.