The Pocatello-Chubbuck School District is ready to “take flight” in what appears to be the first normal start to a school year since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The masks are off and students and teachers are learning together in person to kick off the 2022-23 school year, which officially begins Tuesday. While preparations for a successful year start as soon as summer hits, the week right before classes begin is usually one of the busiest and this year was no exception.
The entire School District 25 staff recently met together for the first time in years to discuss this year’s theme and prepare for a great year, student athlete parents participated in a workshop as part of the district’s Positive Coaching Alliance and numerous schools are preparing some exciting plans to welcome back students.
The district-wide meeting was held last week at the Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheatre. More than 1,250 members of the district’s 23 schools and five departments, ranging from cafeteria workers to district administrators, participated in the conference. A la one of the hottest blockbuster movies this summer, “Top Gun: Maverick,” the district began this school year with a “Take Flight Training School.”
“This was a great opportunity for all of us to come together after the hiatus we had the last few years,” said School District 25 Superintendent Doug Howell. “The ‘Take Flight’ theme to me symbolized that we had been grounded for the past few years. We still knew our trajectory and it’s a never ending destination to increase student achievement and the overall well-being of our kids, but it was really an opportunity to kick off, ‘Take Flight’ and get back to what we know.”
Dozens of community business and education partners welcomed District 25 staff members at the meeting, with school buses transporting a majority of district personnel from their home schools to the amphitheatre. A flyby courtesy of an Av Center Inc. airplane helped energize the crowd and reinforce the 2022-2023 “Take Flight” theme.
“There is some talk on the fringe about some other (COVID-19) strains popping up but I don’t think that will distract us much,” Howell said about the start of the new school year. “I feel like we’re ready to move forward again. I presented a presentation during the meeting about doing more together and I just feel that while we were connected through online platforms I feel like there is power in physical association and social collaborations. That’s what I am most excited about this school year.”
Howell said School District 25 will welcome roughly 80 new teachers this year, which is slightly more than the average of about 65 to 70 that begin anew at the district every year.
“There is an excitement in the air as our entire staff prepares to welcome back our learners,” Howell said. “While the last couple years have given us opportunities to learn more about ourselves and our practices, we have a renewed commitment to providing the best possible experiences for our learners. Personally, I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished together and look forward to what we can do as we take flight this year.”
A School District 25 program that kicked off in March continued this month. About 800 parents of student athletes from each of the three local high schools participated in a workshop last week as part of the district’s Positive Coaching Alliance.
The program is about reinforcing the district’s mantra, “Do More Together,” from an athletic perspective, said School District 25 spokesperson Courtney Fisher.
The Positive Coaching Alliance provides research-based training and resources for coaches, parents and athletes to ensure a positive youth development experience for all kids in all communities across the U.S. through sports.
Participants in workshops receive tangible and practical tools to help youth have positive experiences while playing sports, both on and off the court or field.
Coaches attended a workshop in March and the parents of local student athletes attended the workshop last week. The parent workshop helps parents or guardians assess their children’s goals and desires in youth sports in comparison with their own and helps to enact and reinforce the Positive Coaching Alliance main principles, which include mastery of sport (not just scoreboard results) and valuing effort, learning and bouncing back from mistakes and adversity; filling emotional tanks with the correct mix of truthful, specific praise and constructive criticism; and honoring the game through appropriate sideline behavior and interaction with coaches.
Student athletes will participate in a workshop in August 2023 and then district officials and Positive Coaching Alliance staff will meet to determine a final workshop set to be held in 2024.
Fisher also reminded local families that School District 25 was not provided with a federal waiver this school year ensuring all students can qualify for free or reduced price lunches. This change is a return to what was normal before the pandemic struck.
Families who still wish to receive free or reduced price school lunches for their children are encouraged to visit sd25.us/departments/food-services#Free.
With much of the planning for a successful school year underway, many, if not all, local schools are preparing special ways to welcome back students.
Ellis Elementary School has invited the Idaho State University women’s basketball team to help welcome students as they arrive on their first day while Tyhee Elementary School has invited several law enforcement branches back again this year and will have the ICCU Green Machine, ISU women’s basketball team and ISU cheerleaders present when students return.
At the district’s middle schools, Irving has a welcome back party planned for Tuesday morning and Franklin will host a welcome back assembly featuring a slideshow with pictures of each staff member and fun facts to help learners identify and make connections with their educators and assistants.
“The enthusiasm generated by the collective efforts of everyone involved in the planning and preparation for back-to-school — from our staff to our educational champions — has been off the charts,” Fisher said. “Our entire staff is as excited as I’ve ever seen them to return to school refreshed and reset to accomplish More Together this year.”