February 14, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 6

School briefs

Meal eligibility count met

The Haines Borough School District is again eligible to receive federal funding for its after-school “sack supper” program.

The program was at risk last fall when the number of families applying for meals dropped below a number equivalent to 50 percent of the student body.

Following news coverage in November, the number rose to above 50 percent, said Gen Armstrong, the district’s food program coordinator. That means Haines will be eligible for the program in 2013-14.

The program launched last fall is still popular, with an average of 107 meals – more than one-third of all students – served per day last month, Armstrong said this week.

Age issue for literacy effort

How far the school district should go in promoting early childhood literacy surfaced as a discussion point at the January school board meeting.

Following a presentation on the program, board member Anne Marie Palmieri questioned what she perceived as a shift. “It seems to me if this program now is targeting children 0 to 3 (years old), that’s sort of a change, an evolution in the program that is different than what the board understood” when it approved the program in March 2011.

Principal Cheryl Stickler responded that she didn’t believe the district was “targeting” students younger than 3 with its program. “I think, we are, for the first time including (students) 0 to 3.” Stickler said district officials are realizing what strides in literacy can be made between the ages of 3 and 5.

Stickler said there can be a six-year gap in the reading ability of two kindergarteners in Haines. “The sooner we can, as a community, work with our fellow agencies… It’s not for duplicity of services. It’s to integrate services. We are the literacy experts in our community.”

Palmieri said the minutes of the 2011 meeting showed the early literacy program’s focus was going to be on students age 3 and up.

Superintendent Michael Byer said the question was “an ongoing discussion.”

Elementary gets iPads

Members of the school’s “iPad implementation team” last week gave high marks to the compact computers, following recent introduction of 70 of the devices to be shared in grades K-8.

Use of computers in those grades was previously limited to 50 laptop computers.

Primary teacher Akela Silkman said iPads aren’t a “magic bullet” but are a “powerful and effective tool for meeting specific needs.”

Teacher Ella Bredthauer said use of iPads has already “increased the level of motivation and engagement” of students, particularly in the middle school. “There’s concern with technology that it isolates people, but we’re seeing with iPads it’s increasing collaboration. They’re so excited they want to share everything they’ve done.”

Superintendent Michael Byer said there are many educational apps for the devices, but iPads aren’t always appropriate or necessary for instruction. They do fit into the school’s strategic plan for integrating technology into the curriculum, he said.

“If we don’t make kids technologically literate, we’re doing them a disservice,” Byer said.

They cost the district $40,000.