LAS Board of Education Recap: Summer Learning, Student Perception Survey

The Lowell Area Schools Board of Education convened Monday evening for a work session meeting, and a small crowd gathered to hear school news and district updates. All board members except Jared Blough were present at the meeting.

Public Comments

The meeting started with public comments, and there was only one commenter on the docket: Kim Lum, a retired LAS teacher. Lum said that she wanted to expand on her comments from the last board meeting regarding opportunities for students and staff to learn different ideas and meet new people.

She spoke about options for students like the Model UN program, which she said gives students an opportunity to meet different kinds of people and to travel. She said there were other opportunities for students to gain important knowledge in subjects such as business and finance, government, or the arts. She said that many learning opportunities come from books and explained, “I think it’s really important that those books…continue to be available for all kids, not just the ones whose parents like those certain ideas.”

Summer Learning

Up next was LAS Director of Curriculum Dan VanderMeulen, who gave a presentation to the board about the summer learning programs in store for the Lowell district this year. These include Arrows Camp, which is LAS’s version of a traditional summer school.

Arrows Camp goes for six weeks in June and July, with 24 instructional days for learners. There is room in the program for a total of 120 K-4 students. Participants are chosen based on assessment by teachers and intervention staff who think that the students would benefit from extra help in reading and math. VanderMeulen said that the program is set up with a “camp theme” to make it fun and engaging for students.

Arrow Readers on the Move is another summer program and is headed up by Cherry Creek Elementary fourth grade teacher Katelynd Pulver. Arrow Readers on the Move encourages summer reading by making sure that libraries are open for students to come check out books throughout the summer. The libraries at Cherry Creek, Alto and Murray Lake Elementary schools as well as the Lowell KDL branch all participate in the program. Students get rewards and prizes for reading and taking AR (Accelerated Reader) quizzes after finishing the books.

Another summer learning opportunity, Kids Read Now, is a program for a total of 505 K-4 students who get to select a number of books and have the books sent to their home to keep. Children eligible for this program must meet one or more criteria: any student who is considered economically disadvantaged, any child with an IEP (individualized education plan), and any student who is homeless or is in foster care. This program is funded from the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund) grant from the state of Michigan.

On the same schedule as Arrows Camp is Math on the Move, a program specifically for fifth grade students going into sixth grade. Students are eligible for this program based on MAP test scores and teacher recommendations. It gives extra help to students who may be struggling in math. Participating kids get a review of basic math concepts and a preview of middle school math to give them a leg up for the coming year.

Students from the same subgroups listed above also qualify for a two-week Arrows Wellness Camp over the summer. Offered in partnership with Lowell Community Wellness, LoWellness Project Manager Jodie Seese and Grand Valley State University students going into health-related fields, this program focuses on healthy eating, exercise and positive mental health.

All of these summer programs are at no cost to LAS district parents.

Student Perception Survey

Lowell students in grades 5-9, as well as high school seniors, will soon participate in a survey put out by Kent Intermediate School District regarding student wellness and perception. LAS participated in the pilot program of this survey in 2019 and received good data as a result. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the right systems in place to utilize the data at that time. VanderMeulen and Superintendent Nate Fowler are confident that the district can now put the data gathered to good use, and students will take part in the survey in May.

The survey looks at three main components of student wellness:

  • Social-emotional factors/student mental health
  • Student engagement/how students feel about their learning environment
  • Belonging, which examines students’ sense of belonging at school, both socially with peers and also with LAS educators and other staff

Parents will receive more information about the survey after spring break and will also have the option to opt their child out of the survey if they wish.

Reports from Ad Hoc Committees

Two ad hoc committees met recently to discuss the past school year and consider future plans. Reports were given from both committees during Monday’s work session.

Several Board of Education members were in attendance at the Facilities and Operations ad hoc committee meeting, as well as Director of Operations Steve Turnbull. The goal of the meeting was to review systems in place for caring for buildings in the LAS school district and to discuss upcoming maintenance projects.

Board member Tom Kaywood, who was present at the committee meeting last week, said he appreciated Turnbull’s organization and attention to detail. He said that Turnbull has kept detailed notes concerning various improvement projects on LAS grounds and buildings dating back 20 years. Several board members noted they appreciated Turnbull’s forward-thinking when it came to various maintenance projects and his discernment in differentiating between which projects or repairs needed more immediate attention and which could wait a bit.

The Athletics ad hoc committee was the second to provide a report. One item discussed at their recent meeting will be an agenda item for the board in April; a recommendation to approve a boys’ volleyball club. Fowler said a group of players has been meeting and participating in matches for the last several years, and they were requesting permission to use LAS facilities and wear the LAS logo when they compete.

Fowler also mentioned the upcoming retirement of Athletic Director Deanne Crowley and what that would mean for the athletic department. Board member Brian Krajewski said he wanted to thank Crowley for everything she has done over the years for LAS student athletes.

Another topic of conversation at the Athletics meeting was the upcoming OK White realignment. Fowler said that, in April, athletic directors will vote on the proposal with the OK Conference Executive Committee, who will then make a recommendation to schools to formally adopt any changes. Every four years, the OK Conference adjusts its divisions based on enrollment to ensure that schools are competing with equitable opponents.

Fowler said the OK Conference will also vote on a 50% increase in officials. LAS currently spends about $80,000 a year for officials at athletic competitions, and the anticipated increase would bring that amount up to about $120,000. More information about costs and possible ways to raise money to offset the expense will be discussed at upcoming board meetings.

Other Agenda Items

The board was also presented with several district policies in need of review, including policies regarding tobacco use on school grounds, animals in school buildings (namely, therapy dogs), cybersecurity, and school safety. Fowler said that as state law evolves, district policies will also necessarily have to evolve. The board will review the proposed policy changes and vote to adopt the changes at the May board meeting.

The board asked the audience and community to contact them with any recommendations for community members deserving of this year’s Marsha Wilcox Community Service Award. This award is given annually to a member of the Lowell community who goes above and beyond to devote their personal time to support public education and Lowell schools, as well as the community at large.

The Board of Ed Work Session Meeting adjourned at 7:15 pm to go into closed session for labor negotiations. The next meeting will be Monday, April 10, at 7 pm in the administrative building.

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