Students in the Salem area head back to school Thursday morning.

Several changes were made over the course of the summer to buildings and staff at all schools.

Oak Hill R-I

“Oak Hill continues to be a proud district that is moving forward with improvements for our students, staff, and community,” said superintendent Douglas Dunn.

Staff spent portions of the summer in various professional learning opportunities preparing for the 2019-20 school year. In the upcoming year, curriculum will be analyzed and staff will participate in on-going professional learning focused on instructional tools and strategies.

New staff includes Becca White (social studies), Amy Conner (Title 1), James Conway (custodial/maintenance) and Monica Smith (cook).

Campus improvements continue for Oak Hill. In addition to the major projects completed last year which added classrooms and replaced classroom windows and HVAC units, air conditioning to the cafeteria and gymnasium was added. Currently, the roof is undergoing a complete restoration. The school is exploring replacing all lighting with energy-efficient LED bulbs. The safety committee has made the campus even safer for students and staff, according to Dunn.

Green Forest R-II

Green Forest just completed an update to its ELA curriculum. In the 2019-20 school year it will be concentrating on science curriculum.

Two new bus drivers, Tonya Lundy and James Joynt have joined the staff. Joynt will also serve as a paraprofessional.

Building updates include air conditioning in the gymnasium.

“We are in the process of installing some new playground equipment. We have built it up quite a bit over the last several years with help from our PTO and the Missouri Foundation for Health grant,” said Wanda Tatom, principal.

“We are ready for our students to be back and looking forward to a great school year.”

Dent-Phelps R-III

Dent-Phelps R-III will begin a “WIN” Time program for fifth through eighth grade students. The program is designed to ensure that every student gets “What I Need,” be it extra help from their teachers to master required skills, the ability to explore and research future career paths and opportunities that they will have as they move onto high school and beyond, along with access to enrichment activities designed to challenge every student.

Opportunities are available for all students, regardless of academic need, to access universal enrichment times, including opportunities to participate in more physical education activities, a refreshed music program, and opportunities to complete STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) challenges.

Two new staff members join the district. Julie Miller will teach fifth and sixth grade math. She comes from the Crawford County R-II school district, where she has spent the last several years teaching a combination of subjects, and is bringing with her a passion for her students and for teaching math. Secondly, Amanda Crocker will be teaching art. She is a recent graduate of Southwest Baptist University. She was a student teacher last spring in a third-grade class at the school.

North Wood R-IV

North Wood has made several updates over the summer months to save energy. A new HVAC system was installed, as well as new roofs of the elementary building and gymnasium. LED lighting was installed throughout the building.

Professional development training took place, including LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling Training), Data Team training, and a writing workshop with Liz Condray. In addition staff attended DCI (District Continuous Improvement) Training and ACI/CFA (Assessment Capable Learners and Common Formative Assessment Training).

Joining the staff are new hires, A.J. Cope, bus driver, custodial; Brenda Ball, bus driver; Mike Fleetwood, SPED aide; Jared Patterson, PE; and Jered Jackson, library/tech.

His Place donated school supplies valued at approximately $3,500 to all four rural schools. Items included Clorox wipes, pencils, Kleenex, and hand sanitizer. The items were identified as most needed by schools, according to organizer Ahleesha Elwood. Business and personal donations assisted in the effort. Elwood said His Place plans to donate again in the future.

Salem R-80 Schools

The faculty and administrative staff at Salem R-80 have both seen some shuffling and new additions heading into the new school year.

Ten new teachers joined the staff, including four in their first year. There’s a new principal at the middle school and a new assistant principal at the high school. New coaches are heading up the football, basketball and volleyball programs.

Former math teacher and basketball coach Conrad Prugh joined the administrative staff as assistant principal. He replaces Rich Parks, who was named the principal at the middle school. The head basketball coach is Bryan Carty, a former assistant to Prugh.

Dylan Wyrick will serve as ISS supervisor, teach weight training and coach the football team. He previously taught and coached at Potosi for four years. Amy Sanders and Lindsey Major, both in their first year, will teach math.

Joining the staff at Salem Middle School are Dale Sandlin Jr., who will teach physical education and serve as head volleyball coach, and Sarah Sullivan, a new math teacher. Sandlin has 20 years’ experience and Sullivan five.

At the Upper Elementary, Amanda Hanger, in her first year, will teach third grade and Ashlyn Cook, in her second year, will teach fourth grade.

At William Lynch, new first grade teachers are Melissa Lettman, in her first year, and Kelsey Wyrick, in her seventh year. Raylene Wilson, with seven years’ experience, will teach kindergarten.

Assistant superintendent John Smith, who worked with the new teachers in the Tiger Training program last week, said the group is a good mix of youth and experience.

“They’re very enthusiastic and ready to get going,” he said.” I think we’re off to a good start with the new staff.”

High School

The implementation of Chromebooks as teaching tools concludes this year with 100 percent of the students in grades K-12 now having access to the lightweight, internet-based laptops. Last year, seniors and eighth graders didn’t have them, Prugh said, so this year’s freshmen will be using them for the first time.

“Last year I was a math teacher and there were times we’d utilize the Chromebooks, but we had four or five seniors in the class and we’d have to do some sharing with those seniors,” he said. “Everything worked out fine, but this year teachers won’t have to worry about any of that and can use them a bit more for whatever they feel is effective for their classroom.”

Students will also benefit from new LED lighting at the circle drive and summer projects to divert storm water away from the band room and vo-ag building. Superintendent John McColloch said new piping and drain tiles were installed because the water was backing up and getting into the buildings. Failed or failing HVAC units were also replaced.

Middle School

Parks said enrollment is up this year, although actual numbers won’t be available until later this week.

“We’re looking at having about 20 more kids this year, somewhere in the neighborhood of 240,” he said. He’s also excited to have two new teachers on board in Dale Sandlin and Sarah Sullivan.

Reading will be an emphasis. “We’re focusing on student literacy this year, trying to get all the kids up to the appropriate grade level, which will translate into better student achievement over the course of the school year and over the course of their lifetime,” Parks said.

As a new principal, his goals include building stronger relationships with students, parents and staff and keeping the lines of communication open.

Upper Elementary

Principal Melanie Wisdom is looking forward to another year filled with learning and lots of special activities for students. She’s also happy to welcome two new faculty members in Amanda Hanger and Ashlyn Cook.

“They’re both first- and second-year teachers, so we’re just excited to start the journey of education with them,” she said. “They’re going to learn from us and we’re going to learn from them.”

The learning environment will benefit from a new main HVAC unit installed over the summer. It failed at the end of the last school year, McColloch said.

The upper elementary is one of the busiest when it comes to activities. “We always have tons of activities that go on but nothing new this year,” Wisdom said. “We have something almost every day.”

Some of the big ones are archery in the schools, quiz bowls, a program called Tiger Nation with Healthy Dent County, after-school tutoring and a play put on by the music department in the spring. This year’s production is “Annie.”

William Lynch

Principal Kriste Crocker said this year’s theme at the school is “The Future is Bright at William Lynch.”

Enrollment numbers are solid with six kindergarten classes, including the Bridges program, five first grade classes, four Tiger Tot pre-school classes and two developmental pre-school sessions. Improvements include a newly-updated gym floor.

“Our enrollment is up by quite a bit,” she said. “Right now, we’re looking at 262 for our total enrollment. First grade is up quite a bit. We have 170 kindergartners which is pretty close to what we had last year but up from our average. We’re sitting at 95 first graders, about 10 up from last year.”

Class sizes are fairly even at about 20 students each. “We’re excited,” Crocker said. “Excited to get our littlest learners in here and get them started on their educational journey.”