The countdown is on: The clock on the last day of the Springfield school year will wind to zero Wednesday afternoon.
The final day of the 2021-22 year will be a full day, ending at the normal dismissal time — with no early release.
Schools have been busy with end-of-year activities: Final exams, award ceremonies and field day events.
Planning for the next school year — which starts Aug. 22, by the way — began months ago and will continue through the summer.
Superintendent Grenita Lathan, nearly a year into the job, has reorganized the central office. The leadership exits, promotions and revamped roles resulted in a higher than average amount of change at the Kraft Administrative Center and in school buildings.
In the past 13 months, there has also been a major turnover on the school board. Five of the seven members are new.
Here are a few of the big changes families will likely see this fall:
New schools, storm shelters open
There are only five remaining projects from the $168 million bond issue approved in 2019 and all are expected to wrap up in late 2022.
The new buildings for Jarrett Middle School and York Elementary will open mid-year and students will move in.
Work is also expected to be finished this year on Hillcrest High School, a complex mix of renovation and new construction. Due to its large size, and the ability to schedule work in phases, students and staff were able to remain on campus.
New storm shelters at Field and Twain elementary schools are also in the works.
150 support positions added
The Springfield district will hire 150 positions to support students and schools this fall through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding, or ESSER.
This money is earmarked to provide extra resources for districts struggling with learning loss in students and other effects of the pandemic.
In each school building, there will be one teacher intern. This is a full-time substitute that can fill a classroom when a teacher is absent for any reason.
There will also be one additional position allocated to each elementary school and two to each middle, K-8 and high school.
In each of those buildings, principals were required to meet with staff and determine the type of position they wanted.
Deputy Superintendent John Mulford said the three positions most commonly requests were teachers, behavior support positions and school-community liaisons.
Other positions added with the funds, which are available for up to two years, include support at the district and building level.
The new magnet school, on the campus of Missouri State University’s Darr College of Agriculture, will open with 100 students in grades 4-5.
The next year, sixth grade and an additional 50 students will be added.
The $6.7 million project — largely funded by William H. and Virginia Darr and the Darr Family Foundation — includes classrooms, a greenhouse, garden, specially equipped kitchens and a courtyard.
It is a partnership between SPS, MSU and the Darr Family Foundation.
Less technology, more books
Fewer Springfield students will be asked to take home Google Chromebooks each day as the district evaluates its use of technology.
The district plans to spend the rest of 2022 exploring how to better safeguard students and figure out what role devices will play in teaching and learning going forward.
Springfield, like many districts, relied heavily on technology during the pandemic — as more students were learning virtually at least part-time — and top officials, urged by the school board and parents, want to reexamine that now.
A proposal, including devices may be used at the high school level, is expected to go to the board in early 2023.
More:4,400 children will receive free books for summer reading from SPS district
This summer, to encourage a love of reading, all kindergarten and first grade students were given a bag of free age-appropriate books to keep. Plus, incoming kindergarten students will be given a school readiness kit with books.
High schools will offer esports
This fall, the district will offer competitive video gaming — called esports — at each of the five high schools.
In support of the new extracurricular option, the board recently approved nearly $60,000 to buy 60 laptops and related accessories for the esports program.
Lathan championed the program noting esports is one of the fastest growing activities in the world and may reach students not engaged in traditional athletics.
Esports are regulated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association and each team will have a staff sponsor and play age-appropriate video games.
Collegiate-level throwing field
In partnership with Missouri State University, the district will add a throwing field next to JFK Stadium.
High school and college athletes will have joint access to the competition-level throwing field for events such as javelin, hammer, discus and shotput.
The university will pay up to $465,075 to create the field near Parkview High School and the district will maintain it.
The new field will comply with NCAA standards as well as the International Association of Athletics Federations’ track and field manual.
New screener, career program
The district has adopted a new universal screener, which will allow teachers to evaluate specific academic skills at the beginning, middle and end of each year.
Unlike state-mandated exams given once a year — with results that are not available for months — district officials said the new screener or internal assessment program allows changes to be made quickly.
This program, Galileo, will replace the more limited iReady exams.
The district also adopted Naviance, a college and career tool for students in grades 6-9. It helps them, and their parents, assess and identify skills they need to be successful in college or careers after high school.
It is also a research tool to help students identify resources to meet their goals.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to [email protected].