By Jerry House Big Sky School District Superintendent

In School House News, Supt. Jerry House shares his point of view on education and the Big Sky School District – his favorite place for teaching and learning. News is selected from all three schools – Ophir Elementary, Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School.

Our 2013-14 school year is off to a great start. We’ve increased enrollment to include 278 registered students, who have vastly improved schedules that allow more core subject choices as well as improved electives. On the first day of school after receiving their schedules, the students were all in their classrooms within 15 minutes of the first bell – a major accomplishment!

A number of changes were developed last spring and summer. We had previously split the kindergarten class between two teachers. This year, we added another first grade teacher to reduce class sizes and improve our teacher to student ratios. The staff continues to attend the latest staff training conferences and workshops, and as a result, our elementary students are receiving excellent foundational skills that will be witnessed as they move up the grade levels.

Ophir Middle School students have experienced the greatest change in their schedules and are no longer in 90-minute blocks. They have 50-minute daily core classes and their elective classes range from 43-50 minutes. Their last period of the day is now called P.A.C.E. – Practice, Activity, Choice, Enrichment – a time for students to complete homework or be tutored by a teacher who sees them struggling with tests or assignments. P.A.C.E. offers a broad range of classes and has proven very effective for teachers and students; it’s time well spent before the student goes home for the evening.

Lone Peak High School students have also had a schedule change. We now have two Advanced Placement teachers who have received certification from the National College Board in literature and government and meet or exceed the requirements to teach college-equivalent courses. The Big Horns will also soon have AP teachers in statistics, art, and foreign language. New technology classes include 3D drawing and modeling, CAD I and II, robotics, alternative energy and basic office programs.

The start of the school year is just the beginning of what will yield great things from the kindergartener’s first year to the senior’s final year. Quality programs, highly qualified teachers, and supportive parents who expect nothing but the best for their children is the Big Sky School District’s formula – one that can’t be beat.