For starters, 39 district schools will begin the school year with a new principal. In the Point Loma Cluster, Jackie McCabe comes to Silver Gate Elementary from Cadman Elementary in Clairemont, where she was also principal.
“It’s always fun when there’s a new principal,” said SDUSD spokesman Jack Brandais.
As part of Proposition S, which voters passed last November, students will begin to see effects of the i-21 Initiative in the fall, an initiative designed to bring new technology to classrooms. According to Brandais, the first phase of i-21 is the installation of Promethean boards in classrooms around the district.
“They’re interactive lightboards. They’re like a computer touch-screen that’s the size of a school classroom chalkboard,” Brandais said. “Teachers can pull up Websites right away if they have their content for their lessons online, or if they have a PowerPoint on their computer they can teach directly on there.”
Brandais said 1,600 classrooms have the boards already in place, and all third-, sixth- and ninth-grade classrooms will have the boards installed by the end of 2009. The Promethean boards are the first step of i-21, which will bring high-speed Internet with WiFi capability to all district schools within three years. For more information on Prop S, visit www.sandi.net/props.
“Some of the teacher training has been going on already, so when they get those boards in their classroom they’ll be ready to use them,” Brandais said.
Lunchtime this year should be more satisfying for students at district middle and high schools. Brandais said the cafeteria system at these schools will be revamped to make lunch more accessible.
“Our cafeterias were designed at a time when very few kids brought their lunch and were a different type of service. Kids would line up and they’d go through the steam tables and they’d get the mashed potatoes and the corn and the sliced meat for the day and take their trays and go,” Brandais said. “Kids don’t eat like that anymore. They prefer sandwiches and handheld food, and prefer to go sit outside with their friends. What we found is that cafeterias are not designed for fast service.”
Brandais said carts will be placed in school quads and near the cafeterias to make lunch more accessible for students by providing more options and cutting down on lines. The goal is to encourage more students to eat lunch by enabling them to buy it without that process taking up their entire lunch period.
“If students have lunch, it’s the same thing as if they have breakfast — they’re better able to learn,” Brandais said. “They keep their energy in the afternoon. They’re growing bodies, so they need to have energy to grow and also to learn.”
The district’s “GAME On!” ninth-grade attendance initiative started last year in five high schools has been expanded this year to include all high schools within the district. As part of this initiative, awards will be given to eligible students on a weekly, quarterly, semester and year-end basis.
“It’s a real effort to make sure that kids not only show up for class but also to encourage them to stay in high school so that they graduate,” Brandais said. “You can’t learn if you’re not in school, and it’s very difficult to function in society these days without a high school diploma.”
As far as vaccinations for the 2009-10 school year, despite talk of mandatory swine flu shots in schools, Brandais said that is not something he has heard as a possibility for San Diego.
“The Health Department is really taking the lead on all of this and they’ll announce what they want to do with that,” Brandais said. “One of the plans is to make the vaccination available and to use school sites as the place where they would do that. But that’s not the district giving shots.”
As district schools adjust to changes at the start of the 2009-10 school year, SDUSD itself is on the verge of a big transition. Superintendent Terry Grier was identified as the final candidate for the Houston Independent School District on Aug. 20. Texas law requires a 21-day waiting period before Houston can make Grier an official offer.
“The organization and direction may change depending on who a new superintendent is — if there is a new superintendent,” Brandais said. “But the efforts and the directions that Dr. Grier has pointed are things that are going to last at the district for years.”
For information, visit www.sandi.net. The “Back to School Information” link includes information for parents and students.