Cheney school board remains busy as schools kick off
By BECKY THOMAS
Enrollment in the Cheney School District has grown by more than 100 students over the summer.
The enrollment numbers, as well as reports on opening two new middle schools this month, topped the first meeting of the school year for the Cheney school board Sept. 12.
At the start of school this month, the district totaled 3,987 students. That's more than 106 over June numbers, finance director Brian Aiken said, but it fits with trends over recent years.
“Again it continues with that 100-plus growth per year,” he said.
Superintendent Deb Clemens commended middle school staff members for their work making the new schools ready for students. Open houses held at both schools the night before the first day were considered a big success.
“I think that was absolutely fabulous. They had a record turnout,” she said.
Clemens also noted that student transportation had undergone a major shift when the district added a building. She said transportation director Paul Harris' plan was working so far.
“We are currently monitoring loads, looking at whether or not we need to add routes,” she said.
With enrollment numbers coming in over budget, some hiring has taken place since the start of school. Associate superintendent Sean Dotson said hiring is done based on last spring's numbers, which tend to fluctuate over the summer. A part-time special education teacher and a part-time physical science teacher were added at Cheney High School, a part-time math teacher was added at Cheney Middle School and a half-time kindergarten teacher was added at Betz Elementary School. At Betz, Sunset and Windsor, combination-grade classes were either split up or added, he said.
The meeting also featured leaders from the two new middle schools. Both Westwood and Cheney middle schools have created leadership clubs for seventh and eighth graders who want to influence school decisions, help younger students and provide community and school service.
At CMS the group of around 30 students is called Talon Crew (after the mascot Hawks), and at WMS the group of nearly 20 students is called Wolverine Pride.
Students from both groups told the board about the work they've done so far, from helping lead school tours to mentoring new sixth graders. Students from WMS shared a cheer they planned to do for an assembly, and got the board to participate, shouting, “We are Westwood Wolverines!”
Also at the meeting:
• Maintenance and operations director Jeff McClure listed a number of summer projects in his department, from finishing the new middle schools to making improvements to the former Nike missile site where maintenance, student support and nutrition services now have offices. Other projects included the “Wall of Pride” outside CHS, Crunk's Sports Fields, moving portable classrooms to CHS and demolishing the old CMS. Additionally, he said construction on the new elementary school is moving forward on schedule.
• The board approved an amendment to its alternative learning policy to add a new online learning system: Spokane Virtual Learning. Shannon Lawson, Home Works administrator, said the new system was run by the Spokane School District utilizing the same curriculum used in physical classrooms.
• Lawson also reported on a grant for bilingual instruction for non-native English speakers. She said the number of students needing the services was down by half from last year; the school year started with 57 students in the program. The decrease showed that students were learning English and passing the test to leave the program, she said. “What we are doing is working.”
• New student advisers Liz Gill and Sarah Oakes discussed activities at the high school, noting a popular new program to motivate students called “212 Degrees.” The premise is that water boils when it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and “going the extra degree” is important, Oakes said. Teachers were rewarding students for hard work in the classroom. Gill added that fall sports were off to a strong start.
Becky Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.