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Teachers and parents of students at Clifty Creek Elementary School said they hope planned improvements at the school will give the learning environment an all-new look and energy this fall.
The school’s makeover — currently in the works — will include $2 million in technology upgrades, a curriculum centered on project-based learning and 15 new teachers, all of whom have experience in the new learning style. Clifty Creek will remain a neighborhood school, and it will model magnet schools Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Campus and Fodrea Campus.
John Quick, superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said Clifty Creek is a school that faces more challenges than most in the district. Seventy-seven percent of its students receive free or reduced lunch assistance, and 15 percent to 20 percent of students are learning English as a second language, Quick said. Clifty Creek also has one of the highest mobility rates — meaning families tend to move around a lot and transfer schools — in the district, he said.
Last year, Clifty Creek earned an F grade under the state’s grading system for public schools, which is based mainly on standardized test scores.
Parents of Clifty Creek students said they are optimistic that the coming changes will help re-energize their children and the school.
“It’s a good, uplifting feeling,” said Deana Bastian, whose daughter will be a sixth-grader this fall at Clifty Creek. “Instead of ‘Oh, here we go again,’ it’s a more positive environment.”
Bastian said her daughter, 11-year-old Annie, has always excelled in her studies, but she knows there’s a large group of Clifty Creek students who could benefit from the redesigned learning style and increased access to technology.
Instead of an endless cycle of classroom instruction and tests, Bastian said she thinks students will retain information better by completing projects and hands-on activities that incorporate core curriculum standards.
“They’re learning in a more fun, dynamic way,” she said.
According to Bastian, Clifty Creek students used to interact with technology about once a month. Administrators said every second- through sixth-grader now will be assigned his or her own iPad or netbook computer for daily use at school. Kindergarteners and first-graders will receive one iPad (in special protective cases) for every two students.
Elizabeth Sigman, whose daughter, Mackenzie, also will be a sixth-grader at Clifty Creek, said she thinks the new devices will be her daughter’s favorite upgrade.
“(Mackenzie) likes to play on the computers,” Sigman said. “It holds her attention really well, so I think that will really help her.”
Mike Jamerson, director of technology for BCSC, said the typical classroom at Clifty Creek will feature a wall-mounted interactive white board, a document camera, electronic audio/visual controls and a portable microphone system.
He said three flat-screen TVs that will serve as conduits for morning announcements and other digital signage will be placed throughout the school.
Unseen will be Clifty Creek’s new wireless network, which students and teachers will be able to access from anywhere in the school, Jamerson said.
Cynthia Frost, newly appointed principal at Clifty Creek, said that while the building is under construction, staff members are busy preparing for the first day of school. Ninety-eight percent of Clifty Creek teachers have attended or will attend project-based-learning professional development classes this month, she said.
Frost, former principal at Richards Elementary, said she and her staff there had great success moving Richards school from F and D grades to an “A school” under the state’s grading system. She said she looks forward to bringing that formula for success to Clifty Creek and watching the students thrive in their new learning environment.
“They will be having fun, they will be engaged,” Frost said. “I think the school will be a very vibrant place.”
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