Stevens Creek Elementary School Spanish teacher Olga Biancheri practiced a vocabulary lesson with the help of kindergarten pupil Landen St. Pierre last year.
From building classrooms to adjusting what's taught in them, the Columbia County school system is expecting a year of change.
One of the first items on the agenda likely will be the implementation of an elementary foreign-language program. Only a few schools teach it now, but over the past two years there has been public support for adding foreign-language instruction to the elementary curriculum.
The questions that remain are how will the system afford it, find the teachers to teach it and fit it in the school day. Associate Superintendent of Student Learning Lauren Williams is making the rounds to school councils to get their feedback.
"By mid-January, we will have met with all of them and will see what kind of recommendation we might bring to get something started," School Superintendent Tommy Price said.
Also this year, he state will roll out its new curriculum. Described as more focused and in-depth, it will be available for public review in January. The new curriculum will be introduced in phases, with full implementation by the 2008-2009 school year.
Building to meet growth is another priority for the school system. The first project will be the construction of a new elementary school to relieve Greenbrier, Riverside and Stevens Creek elementary schools - "our most overcrowded," Price said.
"Those zones continue to experience considerable growth," he said. "We are in the final stages of procuring a site and hope to have site development under way this winter. Construction should start late spring with the school opening in the 2005-06 school year."
The "for sale" sign soon will go up at the 21-acre Evans Middle School campus, which local Realtors say is one of the most prime commercial locations in the county. The trick will be how to market the site to get the most money to build a new school and how to make the transition.
The construction of another middle school also is in the system's five-year plan, and school officials will be working on developing that school this year. It is likely its doors will open by the 2006-07 school year. Deciding where it will go will be the biggest challenge.
Also on tap, Price said, is the school system looking to the Internet to expand course offerings.
"I don't think there will be any significant course offerings this year but probably next fall," Price said.
The school system also will work to expand its software collection to provide additional assistance to pupils in after-school programs.
But Price said what the system is capable of doing will depend largely on state and local revenue.
"We hope things will improve with the economy, and money will be restored," Price said. "Everything you do cost. It's hard to make improvements with state money being cut back as it is."
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