About 12,000 students headed back to class last week in York and Clover schools, where several new programs are in the works.
Clover kicked off its Connected Classroom project, a three-year, $4.2 million plan that aims to put an Apple iPad or MacBook Air in the hands of every student from third grade through high school beginning this school year. About 35 classrooms piloted the project last spring.
Superintendent Marc Sosne said most students whose parents had completed the required paperwork to enroll in the program received their devices on the first day of school. And he said teachers are ready to use them.
“We spent all summer retraining our teachers and a good part of the work days this school year retraining our staff on how teaching in a wired classroom is different,” he said.
Sosne said the program will improve learning. “There’s no doubt in my mind that students will be more engaged in learning with the device, and the more engaged they are, the better they’re going to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, the York school district launched a full-day 4-year-old kindergarten program for 160 students in all five of its elementary schools.
The program was funded by the state, because York met the state requirement for a higher poverty population, said Superintendent Vernon Prosser.
Prosser said the program will enable the district to help children who qualified based on family income requirements be ready for kindergarten.
“You can get so much more instruction done,” Prosser said about the full-day program, which replaced a half-day program offered last year.
Jefferson, Harold C. Johnson and Cotton Belt elementary schools have two 4K classes in each school, he said, and Hunter Street and Hickory Grove-Sharon elementary schools have one class each.
Prosser said he is hopeful the district can expand the 4K program next year with a couple more classes.
He said the district didn’t receive notification from the state about the additional 4K funding until June, and “in a short turnaround time, eight classes was about all we could handle.”
He said the program focuses heavily on beginning literacy and other preschool skills that will help children prepare for kindergarten.
“That way, when they come into kindergarten, we’ve overcome that gap that we can’t overcome as fast in a half-day program,” he said.
Prosser said York enrolled about 5,100 students with the new school year, while Sosne said Clover’s enrollment will be around 7,000 with kindergarten and preK.
Sosne said first-day enrollment in Clover was about 175 students more than the first-day enrollment last year, which he sees as a sign that population growth is resuming.
“If you look at the new businesses that are going in and the new construction that is taking place, I think we’re now seeing in the schools that growth has started up again,” he said.
Sosne said Clover is also preparing for its new school construction projects, approved by voters in March in a $67 million bond.
Preparations are underway for the construction of a new elementary and middle school, he said, and artificial turf has been laid on two of three athletic fields.
Teachers and other staff members in York and Clover schools met the new school year with a dose of enthusiasm last week, as they hugged uncertain children, dried a few scattered tears and reassured parents.
“I definitely understand parents. It’s the first time some of them have let their children go,” said Mattie Hughes, principal of Jefferson Elementary in York.
Will Largen, principal of Clover’s Oakridge Middle School, also was busy welcoming students back. “Seeing the new and returning faces makes this an exciting time of year,” he said.