December 30, 2021
Now that we have made it to the midway point of the 2021-22 school year, I thought I would share an update with you on a variety of topics. While I am grateful that there are so many exciting things to share with you, I apologize in advance for this correspondence being so long.
Every summer, the Board of Education conducts a Strategic Planning Meeting. At that meeting, we identify district goals for the upcoming school year along with strategies for achieving those goals. We have been very busy the first 6 months of the 2021-22 school year making progress towards those goals. It is an exciting time at GES with lots of new initiatives and projects in the works.
Building and Grounds
In September, a new 3CX cloud-based phone system was installed in the building. This new phone system provides more advanced phone features that serve to promote the safety and well-being of our school community at a savings cost to the district.
Over the Christmas Break, we started the process of converting the computer lab into a classroom. The K-4 special education classroom will be relocated to this room for the 2022-23 school year. With all of our classes now one-to-one with devices, we have the flexibility of turning the lab into a much needed classroom.
In the weeks to come, a new access control system will be installed on the doors located at the north and south main entrances to the building along with the faculty/staff entrance. Our current door monitoring system is very outdated and occasionally malfunctions. This new system will allow for district personnel to set door codes and lock/unlock the building from remote locations.
The district was recently awarded a $50,000 matching fund maintenance grant. Through this grant, the following projects will be completed during the Summer of 2022: fire alarm panel retrofit, fire alarm device upgrade, IP clock system install, PA system install, and classroom lockdown button install. Our plan is to use Health Life Safety funds that we have in reserves to pay for our portion of the matching grant as all of these grant projects pertain to the health and safety of our students and staff. This project will help us in our efforts to upgrade some of the aging equipment in our building.
The biggest project we have planned for the near future involves an addition to the building. Our community is growing, and we have run out of space. We need to add on to the building in order to be prepared for an anticipated influx of students over the course of the next few years. Our goal is to incorporate two classrooms and a gymnasium into a construction project. Such a project will be funded via a bond issue similar to the bond issue that allowed us to install a new roof and rooftop units on the 2000 addition to the building. The bonds that were issued for the roof project will be paid off shortly after we secure bonds for this construction project. That will allow us to complete this project and our school tax rate will remain one of the 3 lowest in Clinton, St. Clair, and Madison counties. We anticipate construction starting sometime next summer. If all goes as planned, the new addition will be completed in time for the start of the 2023-24 school year. Stay tuned for more updates as the project gains some steam.
As a school district we are committed to developing and maintaining strong school-home and school-community partnerships. One way we strive to do that is by keeping the lines of communication open. This school year, we partnered with Apptegy to redesign the district website and create a district app. Both are fully operational and are updated on a daily basis. They serve to provide our families with easy access to the most up-to-date information. Click here to access the district website.
If you have not already downloaded the GES #60 app, you don’t know what you’re missing. Access documents, the latest news, events, menu information, and much more right from your pocket. Download the app on Android: https://bit.ly/3haER3X or iPhone: https://apple.co/3h1r6Eu.
Curriculum and Instruction
This school year, we have put an increased focus on the social emotional well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. We continue to utilize the services of Kris Fulkerson from Coping 4 Kids Coping 4 Life. Ms. Kris conducts individual, small group, and whole class sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She also supports the faculty and staff as they work through the challenges of teaching during a pandemic.
The House System is going strong. This year’s theme is FAMILY. The character words associated with the theme include: Flexibility, Acceptance, Motivation, Imagination, Leadership, and be You. The houses met every week during the first quarter to engage in activities associated with the FAMILY theme. Follow-up house meetings are facilitated at mid-term every quarter.
For the 2021-22 school year, we were able to bring back the Bulldog Buddy Program after a one year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Bulldog Buddy Program involves every student at our school as each student is paired with another student in a different grade level. At least once per month, the students engage in “Buddy Time”. During “Buddy Time”, the students meet with their buddy and participate in organized activities under the supervision of the classroom teachers. The “buddies” work on various projects that promote a positive atmosphere within our school. For the 2021-22 school year, the classes are paired as follows: PreK and 4th grade, kindergarten and 6th grade, 1st grade and 5th grade, 2nd grade and 8th grade, and 3rd grade and 7th grade. Hopefully your child can tell you who their buddy is.
In addition to putting an increased focus on the social and emotional well-being of our students, we have also added an after school Homework Help Program to our offerings this school year. The referral-based program serves to provide additional academic support for our students. To date, thirty-four students take advantage of the opportunity to stay after school for an additional hour to work on assignments, study, and/or read with guidance and support from a GES staffer.
While it would be easy to use the pandemic as an excuse to wallow in these stressful times, our faculty/staff continues to dedicate themselves to continuous growth and improvement. This school year, the school improvement time built into the calendar has been dedicated to designing curriculum maps and pacing guides, creating differentiated lessons, writing standards-based assessments, and compiling standards-based activity folders. Our teachers have been working hard to create positive change during these unprecedented times. We truly are blessed with the best at GES.
Earlier this school year, we conducted a feasibility study to see if there was enough interest in the community to justify starting a Transitional Kindergarten Program. Based on the results of that study, we have decided to make a big investment in early childhood education by moving forward with the program. The program will start in August of 2022. We have hired a rock star teacher in Katie Mense. Mrs. Mense comes to GES with 15 years of classroom teaching experience. She is a published author, a national presenter, and a business owner. More importantly, she is passionate about early childhood education. Over the course of the weeks and months to come, Mrs. Mense will be working diligently behind the scenes to develop the program.
What is transitional kindergarten? The GES Transitional Kindergarten Program will be a bridge between PreK and kindergarten with play-based learning being a core component while also incorporating more in the way of structured activities. Daily activities will be theme-based and focus on 7 key areas: dramatic play, language arts, math, social sciences, writing/fine motor, gross motor, and social emotional learning. This tuition-based program will follow the school calendar and meet from 8:30-3:05 daily. The tuition rate has been set at $475 per month for a total of 9 payments. That equates to a daily rate of $24.29. Bus transportation will be available for families that live along the district’s established bus routes.
Why is the district interested in starting this program? Early childhood education gives children the best start in life. It provides them with opportunities to strengthen their social skills, develop independence, learn new routines, and build a foundation for learning while preparing them for the transition to kindergarten. At GES, we offer a half day Preschool for All Program that is limited to 20 students and an afternoon tuition-based program that serves 10 students. Because we only have spots for 30 children in our preschool programs, a faction of future Bulldogs is left out of the early childhood mix. Because the early childhood experience is so important in the development of the whole child, we have decided to start a Transitional Kindergarten Program.
Who will be eligible to participate in the program? The Transitional Kindergarten Program will be for 4-year olds that are not part of the Preschool for All Program and 5 year olds whose parents have opted to wait a year to send their child to kindergarten. The program will be limited to 20 students. If there are still openings after all in-district children are placed in the program, slots will be opened up to GES staff members followed by out-of-district families.
How will placement in the program be decided? For 4 year olds, the preschool screening process will be used to determine participation in our early childhood programs. Anyone that is not placed in the morning Preschool for All Program will have the opportunity to participate in the Transitional Kindergarten Program.
Children that turn 5 years old on or before September 1 are eligible for kindergarten. For families that opt to wait a year to send their child to kindergarten, the Transitional Kindergarten Program would be a fantastic option. Simply contact the school office at 523-4253 for more information on signing a child up for the program. The program will be filled on a first-come first-served basis starting with 5 year olds and then 4 year olds.
What is the program timeline? The program timeline is as follows:
September - March: Develop the Program
March: Preschool Screening
April: Placement Decisions Made
May-July: Classroom Preparations
August: Program Begins
Where will the program be held? The program will be held in the primary wing at GES.
Based on the most recent data from fiscal year 2020, our district has the 4th lowest operating expense per pupil out of 851 school entities in the entire state of Illinois. We have the lowest school tax rate of all 29 elementary districts in Clinton, St. Clair, and Madison counties. We have also received the highest financial profile designation of ‘Recognition’ for 19 consecutive years. These statistics serve as evidence that the district is committed to making fiscally responsible decisions. We pledge to continue our efforts to maximize district dollars while we also work to secure funding for the addition of 2 classrooms and a gymnasium.
We have several staff members retiring at the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year and have already started the process of interviewing candidates. We hope to hire for these positions within the next couple of months.
Board of Education
Never before have Boards of Education been faced with tough decisions like those presented during this pandemic. We are lucky to have a Board of Education that puts the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff first when it comes to making decisions.
Last school year, we added golf to our extra-curricular offerings. Next school year we will be adding cross country. Boys and girls in fifth through eighth grade will be eligible to participate. Germantown resident, parent, and avid runner, Chris Hemker, will be leading the program.
Our tech director, Jacob Cygan, has been very busy checking off his list of things to do. Thus far this year, he has worked to install new internal active directory domain infrastructure, install new server hardware, upgrade Internet from 1gb to 2gb, clean/re-image ALL staff computers, fine-tune Wifi/Servers/Switches/etc., and deploy new Chromebooks in 3rd grade. In the days and weeks to come, he will be working with Carl to dismantle the computer lab and transition it into a classroom and a small server room and tech work area.
As you can see, great things are happening at GES. There is lots of work to be done in the weeks and months to come, but it is exciting work. We look forward to watching these projects unfold and will keep you in the loop every step of the way.
With Bulldog pride,
Robin Becker, Supt. GES #60