Friday, May 27, 2022
52.0°F

WBSD staff filling in gaps in staffing and education

by EMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | February 18, 2022 1:00 AM

PRIEST RIVER — West Bonner School District staff have been pitching in to keep schools open and fill in the gaps when there are staff vacancies.

At the Feb. 16 WBSD board meeting, administrators presented their reports for the first quarter of the school year.

Staff have been working double shifts and through their prep time to make up staff gaps, Superintendent Paul Anselmo said.

Kim Shaner, the director of special education said that the department has made ground in filling positions. They have added a full-time school counselor and filled two more positions at Idaho Hill Elementary. Progress is being made in social and emotional skills.

Kids are learning rather than staff just putting out fires, she said. There is still a climbing increase of students with special needs.

At Idaho Hill Elementary in order to assist students who need extra help an afterschool club has been formed. Thirty-one students are attending and the club hopes to have more, Susie Luckey, Idaho Hill principal, said.

Since the addition of the new counselor,t Idaho Hill students have begun goal setting and finding ways to self regulate. Some students have difficulties with tantrums, but now have found ways to help with intervention, Luckey said.

Students are still getting used to being in school after not attending for years, which is difficult at the elementary level. One example Luckey gave was third graders that have begun attending Idaho Hill.

“We have had a couple of kids come enroll in our school that haven't been in school since kindergarten,” she said. “We have these children, they don't know how to read, but you have third grade class going on.”

It takes a lot of work but the staff is making steps to bridge those educational gaps, she said.

The first quarter of the school year there were over 1,200 absences for the 160 students at Idaho Hill.

“Kids have been sick a lot,” said Luckey. “They had sunken eyes and fevers. Whatever bugs we didn’t catch last year we’re catching now.”

Matt George, principal at Priest River Lamanna High School, said there have been difficulties getting students to turn in their work, so the staff set a reward to incentivize students. If students turned in 75 percent of their work they would have a trip to Triple Play. About half of the students met their goal and will be going on the trip.

Some students turned in their work with only their names on the assignment, so next semester that goal will be bumped to completing 80% of assignments, said George.

“We were averaging about 100 students out a day, so about a third of our population was out each day for about three to four weeks straight,” he added.

He also presented notes from the PRLHS executive council which had feedback by students of what teachers are doing well.

“Teachers are not micromanaging the students, basically letting them make their own mistakes, learn from them,” George said. “So if they miss deadlines, it's on the students, not the teachers’ fault.”

In the last two years, there has been a loss of instruction, and loss of data in classical times and immature behaviors. Students did not have the chance to grow up with the social and emotional part of their lives, said George.

PRLHS has brought back the Parent Advisory Community. Those interested are asked to call PRLHS.

Priest River Elementary has received an increase of students and has about 395 students. Lynne Parker, principal at PRE, presented data of growth and test scores of students. From the data she provided she said that the third grade class lost the last three months of first grade when school was closed due to COVID-19.

One of the things Parker said she noticed while delving into the data was COVID-19’s effect on the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. These students did not have the last three months of learning at the end of the year, but it wasn’t such an integral grade level that they left, Parker said.

This was not the case for the current third graders who missed the last three months of first grade.

“I taught first grade for 18 years. And that last three months is so integral to a first grade classroom that it could be detrimental,” she said.

This has affected students' scores negatively, Parker said. About 30 percent of the students were homeschooled the past two years and have big learning gaps, she said. PRE also has attendance issues when 75 students are absent at a time.

The week she was out sick, 15 other staff members were absent as well.

“And I have to say that Priest River Elementary school has an amazing staff. For that many people to be absent and to still be able to have our school run,” she said.

Priest Lake Elementary has also grown, Anselmo said. Eight years ago when he started as superintendent there were only 32 students and four teachers teaching multigrade class rooms. Now there are 62 students.

“The school continues to grow,” he said. “One of the staff members we got is paid for through ESSR funds.”

Last year the teacher taught a fourth, fifth and sixth grade multi-grade class of 29 kids. Anslemo said that the district feels it is necessary to keep the classes smaller, especially in multi-grade classrooms.

The data presented in the meeting is what teachers have in their hands. As a whole group the teachers identify specific kids that need help. Each school has a response and intervention team. Students with concerning data are brought forward specifically for extra interventions, Anselmo said.

The teachers use the data that was presented to the board in order to know what a student is lacking in and make the adjustments to fill those gaps. Every WBSD school has a response and intervention team, Anslemo said.

“A lot of these systems are in place within the schools to capture those kids and get them up where they need to be,” he said.

The struggle the district runs into is having kids move into the district and keeping them the whole time, he said. When the student stays in district staff can get them to where they need to be.

“We've had pretty consistently good luck in getting those kids to proficiency,” he said.