A look at the year ahead for Cherry Hill schools
Ready or not, here it comes. In six short days, you’ll be walking the kids back to the bus stop and waving goodbye.
Hate to break it to you, but summer is almost officially over. And just as your kids have changed and grown over the summer, so has the school district to be able to meet the ever-changing needs of its students.
Cherry Hill School District Superintendent Dr. Maureen Reusche explains what both students and parents can look forward to in the coming year.
Let’s begin with what you need to know prior to the big day. Each year, bus schedules are adjusted to improve efficiency and accommodate students. Reusche said to look for bus schedules to be posted at each of the schools prior to Sept. 6.
As far as schedule changes, the elementary schools are switching back from a 10-day rotation schedule to a five-day schedule. And because of additional state aid in 2010–2011, the district is adding four elementary school teachers to provide supplemental instruction, Reusche said.
There is good news to report on the extracurricular activity front. There are no changes to sports and clubs throughout the district, Reusche said. However, the student activity fee remains for students in grades six through 12. The fee was implemented last year due to reduction in state aid, Reusche added. The one-time fee each year is $80 per high school student and $70 per middle school student, with a family maximum of $150. Students who are eligible for the free and reduced meal program are not required to pay the activities fee.
With state funding in flux, the district will continue to look at ways to cut costs and share services, while remaining mindful of the environmental choices it makes this year.
“These continue to be challenging times for public education and for the property taxpayers who provide the lion’s share of support for our public schools,” Reusche said. “But challenging times force us to think differently about how we undertake our work and the result can be new opportunities to better serve our students.”
The district entered a shared services agreement with the township for trash and recycling services in 2009, Reusche said, which has yielded savings for the district. The district has also been active in numerous other shared service agreements, Reusche added, that have netted significant savings.
Last year, she said, the district saved $220,000 in transportation costs by partnering with the Camden County Educational Services Commission for non-public transportation services. The district is also a participant in the State Employees Health Benefits Plan, Reusche said. The district saved about $2.5 million in the 2010–2011 school year and expects to save about $4 million this upcoming school year, she added.
The district is also paying close attention to how it can implement environmental policies in each school. Reusche said the administration is working closely with Sustainable Cherry Hill to improve recycling within each of the district’s 19 schools.
“We’ve involved with Sustainable Cherry Hill in the design of some very specific action steps the district will take to become greener. Our staff and students will focus on the identification of recyclable items, including plastics which weren’t previously recyclable,” Reusche said. “In addition, we are undertaking an analysis of the location and labeling of recycling and trash containers throughout the district and we will form a District Green Team to enable us to develop longer range goals.”
The district is also completing energy audits in each of the schools. Last month, the district awarded a contract to an engineering firm which will help formulate an energy savings plan, which will lead to an energy savings improvement program for the district, Reusche said.
Now that you know what the district is planning for the year ahead, you can also plan ahead with students to get them reacquainted with the activities, friends, schedule and deadlines that come with a new school year.
“The beginning of a new school year is exciting for everyone; staff, students and parents. There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to renew acquaintances, make new friends and to begin the new year with a fresh start,” Reusche said. “In an effort to receive more than a one-word answer, ask your child to tell you about something that surprised him/her, or about something that was new or different during the first few days of the school year.”
Communication is key to a good start, as well, Reusche added.
“Throughout the school year, keep the lines of communication between home and school open. Doing so enables us to maintain some of that initial excitement and enthusiasm a bit longer than the first few days of the school year,” Reusche said. “Encourage your children to take advantage of the many opportunities to become involved in the school community. Our schools have so much to offer.”
You don’t have too much time left, but take one last walk through the park or trip to the museum with your kids. Reusche said savoring the last weeks of summer before jumping back into the swing of things could be good for the whole family.