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From the Principal’s Desk: A Welcome to CHS for the 2017-18 Year

The following is a letter from Columbia High School

Hello from CHS.

We are looking forward to welcoming our students next Wednesday (all 9th graders) and Thursday (all grades).

We are sharing a lot of information in this letter.  Please save it and take time to review this email carefully, and please share it directly with your students to talk about our shared expectations for your students’ growth and development at CHS, and their responsibility to be on time and present for work and learning with us each day.

We are committed to your students feeling welcomed, nurtured, encouraged, challenged, and able to grow at CHS.    Our school district and teachers are engaging in full-year, school- and district-based anti-racism and anti-bias work, deepening teachers’ strengths and awareness in cultural competency, and will work together to meet the needs of every student in our classrooms.

We have mailed your students’ schedules, important information, and forms needed to start the year at CHS. Please read and discuss the attendance letter with your students.

The district requires your return of the publicity consent form. Students are asked to return this form to their English teachers.  The deadline for this form is September 29.

Applications for free or reduced breakfast and lunch were emailed to all SOMSD families this week and are available on the district website. They should be returned to the Main Office at CHS.  Those forms will also be distributed at CHS when school begins.  Only one application per family is required. If you were eligible for this assistance last year, your child’s benefits continue until September 29 or until processing a new application – whichever comes first. Please submit these forms BEFORE September 29.

STUDENT SCHEDULES

Please be on the look out for a large manila envelope from CHS.  The green sheet enclosed is your student’s schedule for the 2017-2018 school year.  This is the schedule your student should bring to school on our first day. Please check PowerSchool, which is scheduled to open on Thursday, August 31, against this copy. Any last and needed changes will be reflected in PowerSchool.  For assistance with PowerSchool, please email [email protected].

Please review your students’ schedules carefully. Since last winter, when your students first received their SMART goal planners and our course selection information, we have worked to be sure they selected the courses they wanted, needed, and were ready to take at CHS.

If your student’s schedule contains the name of a retired teacher or reads “NEW”, that will be updated in PowerSchool.

Your students’ schedules may indicate an additional PE or Health course or another course previously taken if failed. That scheduling was done to keep your student on track for graduation.

Some schedules, due to printing configurations, may only show Q1 (first quarter) and/or S1 (first semester) courses. The PowerSchool view of the schedule will show all courses. Be sure to review your students’ schedules with them so that they report to their FIRST QUARTER (Q1) Health/PE course and their FIRST SEMESTER (S1) electives.

Your PowerSchool schedule is your FINAL schedule. On our first day of school, students report to those classes.  If a student is missing a class between Periods 2-8, the student should report to guidance during that period.   All students must report to all Study Halls. If a student believes there is an error in their schedule, it will not be addressed on our first day. Students: if you think an error has been made, report to guidance on the way to lunch on the first day to fill out a meeting request. The counselor will follow up with the student. Attend ALL classes on your schedule.

The errors we can address are:

  • A required core content course is missing.
  • A student is carrying under 33.75 credits as required by policy.
  • A student is scheduled for a course in which credit has already been earned.

All students are required to report to Study Hall everyday.  Attendance is taken.

Find the CHS Bell schedule here. It is the same as last year.

https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=423

We will send a link to our updated Student Handbook next week.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT SCHEDULES AT CHS

Students at CHS made requests for over 27,380 course slots, and our scheduling process allowed for over 26,540 to be met. (Simply put, over 96% of students’ individual course requests were met.)  We are pleased to share this year:

  • CHS has added Mandarin through the US State Department’s program for the Teaching of Critical Languages
  • CHS has increased the number of sections in several AP areas, including AP Psychology and AP Computer Science Principles
  • CHS has added teachers in our special education department
  • We have maintained our ability to have a reading specialist to work with students and teachers at CHS, and built course supports into our Math and English Departments to support all students in meeting a graduation benchmark

While some class sizes are larger, the average class size at CHS is 23.

Please note the following about the 2017-2018 school year:

Most 9th and 10th graders have been scheduled for classes periods 1-8.

Many 11th and 12th graders have been scheduled for classes periods 2-9.

During the period 1 and 9 time slots, students have access to over 75 academic tutorial labs that meet twice a week during Period 1 and Period 9, staffed by teachers in all of our content areas. (A schedule of these will be sent to you, distributed to students, and posted widely at CHS.)

This schedule will help our students access academic help, our counseling and guidance department staff and services, LOFT youth development and programs, and other school needs without missing class time. Additionally, seniors will be able to use this time to work on college applications and receive support in the application process.

Additional opportunities – such as students being able to meet with mentors, explore community-based learning and internship opportunities and more – will be part of the work we undertake this year at CHS, aligned with the district’s Strategic Plan.

PLANNING YOUR STUDENT DAY @ CHS

Our cafeteria opens at 7:15 for breakfast.  Students eating breakfast remain in the cafeteria or can exit the café to outside. They may not go elsewhere in the building before the bell rings as we do not have supervision in other areas.  We are pleased to share that through an Eagle Scout project, CHS has beautiful new handmade benches in front and in back for students. Enter through the cafeteria doors in the ‘flagpole’ parking lot. PARENTS AND GUARDIANS: Please do not enter this parking lot with your vehicle.  This is an active parking lot for our staff. Drop your child safely around CHS. We do NOT use the curved driveway at CHS. You must drop along our side streets. Please be aware if you stop along Parker Avenue, Maplewood Police will honk to move you along. We advise dropping a block or two from school and having your student walk. It is easier and safer for all of us. 

Our doors open at 7:43 for students with a period 1 class. The bell rings at 7:45, and students have that time to go to their lockers, and then be ON TIME to period 1. The bell to begin Period 1 rings at 7:55. Students who are not in their period 1 class at 7:55 are tardy/late to class.

Students who wish to access a period 1 tutorial should plan to arrive by 7:55. We cannot accommodate rolling entry during period 1. At 7:55 all students must be in a supervised setting.  Please remember that our breakfast program ends at 7:55. Students may not remain in the cafeteria after 7:55.

In the mornings at 7:43, students may enter the front doors, the door on Academy Street, and the cafeteria doors.  Students should have their ID with them at all times and be prepared to show it to school staff at any time.  Remember that the streets around CHS are busy in the morning and we recommend dropping your child a block or more from school to avoid the traffic.  We also recommend your student walking and biking to school!

After 7:55, entry is only through the front door for students to sign in late to go to Period 1.

For students reporting to school to begin their day with Period 2, we will use the same three entry doors (Academy Street, the front door, and the cafeteria doors.) Students should use the door closest to their Period 2 class to be sure to get to class on time. This time is the same as our 4-minute passing time after each lunch, and we expect students to manage their arrival at school to be ON TIME to Period 2.  To be on time, students should plan to arrive at school at 8:35 for entry at the 8:40 bell. They may gather at any of those three entrances, which will be staffed by our CHS security staff and administrators.

Students in grades 9 and 10 accessing Period 9 tutorials should plan to stay for the duration of that period, working on homework, with peers and teachers, or accessing other school services during that tutorial. Students should not plan to leave at any time during Period 9, but rather stay the period to work and access services at CHS.  Students may not be in the hallways or unsupervised during Period 9.  If a 9th or 10th grader does not plan to stay for a tutorial period, the student should exit the building at the end of Period 8.

Students will receive their CHS agenda/planners this year at the beginning of the school year.  This year, it contains a back page that is their hall pass. Should a student need to leave a class, the student will write down the required information and the teacher will sign it.  Students must have their agendas with them each day in class for this reason and, of course, to record their assignments, plan out their daily and weekly work schedules and assignments, and more.   Please remind your students of this and be sure that, each morning, they have their agenda with them when they come to school!

THE YEAR AHEAD

Structuring our schedule and allowing the grades to have designated tutorial time allows for greatly increased teacher collaboration and conferencing with students each week. Some examples of how this time may be used, in addition to teachers staffing academic tutorials, are:

  • teachers who teach the same grade levels may meet each week in department teams to collaborate on planning
  • teachers can collaborate on professional development in teams
  • teachers have increased time to meet with students
  • teachers and students have time to deepen learning and supports for students who need assistance and students who are ready to stretch
  • teachers have additional time to  continue to help students prepare for AP examinations to earn college credits

Our school district and teachers are engaging in full-year, school- and district-based anti-racism and anti-bias work, deepening teachers’ strengths and awareness in cultural competency, and will work together to meet the needs of every student in our classrooms.

The work our district is committed to doing in the areas of cultural competency and anti-bias/anti-racism work will be strengthened by this additional teacher work and collaboration time.

We anticipate also being able to offer more targeted programming – such as assistance with college applications, the FAFSA, summer internship applications, etc. during these periods in which staff can plan directly to work with students without students ever missing class to access that programming.

We also hope to begin to build  – with the support of parent and community members and in alignment with our district’s Strategic Vision – opportunities for students to meet with mentors, participate in job/resume building workshops, work on Naviance college and career planning,   and online learning and credit recovery programs during the school day when they can meet with staff and teachers to support that work. We also envision students being able to explore career and work opportunities in a more structured way with the use of this time available to them each day.

We are working on our library schedule to provide access to as many students as possible each period of the day, including lunches, and will share that schedule shortly as well.   We will also have labs open for printing and work space for students as much as possible.   Remind your students that food is not allowed in our library.

TIPS FOR REVIEWING YOUR STUDENTS’ SCHEDULES:

Identify the periods your student has classes. (1-8, 1-9, 2-9, 2-8), etc.

Note that if your student is scheduled for Period 1 or Period 9 Health/PE, in the quarter they do not have health or PE, they are not scheduled to be at CHS.  Students report only for the Period 1 and 9 courses that are identified on their schedules.

Your students’ lunch may change from Semester 1 (S1) to Semester 2 (S2).

Attention all 9th graders: Bring your lunch on the first day! There is no open campus the first day for 9th graders. During lunch, you will eat in the cafeteria and attend our Activities Fair.

OFF AND AWAY: Your student should NOT plan to use a device in our hallways to find classes or to follow their schedules. Phones at CHS are to be OFF and AWAY unless out in the classroom at the direction of a teacher for learning purposes. Students may have their phones out at lunch for data (not calls) and they should be put OFF and AWAY before entering the building.  Please take some time to help remind your student of the need to turn off phones to be fully present for learning. We enjoy and value seeing and hearing students look at, talk with, and listen to each other as they enter our buildings and walk our halls, and research shows that those interactions are critical to developing empathy and kindness and developing positive relationships.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES:  Your students’ teachers will let them know what specific supplies they may need for their classes. Pens, pencils, a few folders and some spiral notebooks and looseleaf paper will suffice for the first few days!

LOCKS/LOCKERS: Students keep their lockers at CHS for 4 years. 9th graders will receive locker assignments and locks during the first several days of school. Students do need to bring their own lock for the PE locker rooms or may buy one from their PE teacher for $5. Students use those lockers DAILY and must remove their lock each day after changing as all of their schoolmates use the same locker rooms.  They will not need to change for PE on the first day of school.

Questions as the school year unfolds? Always ask your student first, and then your students’ teachers.  Reach out to your students’ school counselors, whose name is located at the top of the school schedule and in PowerSchool.

To email a teacher, click on the teacher’s name in PowerSchool.

We are looking forward to a terrific year with your students.

On behalf of the entire CHS teaching and learning community,

Elizabeth M. Aaron, Principal and Cheryl Hewitt, Charles Ezell, and Terry Woolard, Assistant Principals

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