Weimar Hills launches charter program

By: Gloria Beverage
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When sixth- through eighth-grade students arrive on the Weimar Hills School campus next week, they will be entering the 21st Century – literally and figuratively. The curriculum of the newly created charter school will focus on “21st.Century Communications, Arts and Technology,” reported Principal Steve Schaumleffel. “That is something that is going to be throughout the school,” he said. “What used to be elective programs, we’ll now push into the regular program. Now kids will be able to demonstrate what they’re learning.” The upper grades will be working together on movies, music videos and broadcasts as well as learning how to utilize Twitter and other social networking media. “We’ve increased our hardware and software technology,” he said. “We’re also increasing our expectations on what we expect the kids to do and be able to use – all those things that are part of the real world.” Students are allowed to carry their cell phones on campus and are able to use them in the classroom. “If they need to go on the Internet to look something up, they can use their I-phones,” he said. “From a student’s perspective, that is the norm. Why go to the library to look it up when they can do it right there.” Schaumleffel said the response to the charter program has been strong. “We’ve had a lot of questions and calls,” he said. “Some families said ‘it’s perfect for my son or daughter.’ A lot of families have said their children have been doing these kinds of things on their own already.” As of Friday, the eighth grade classrooms were full, but other grade levels had openings. “We need just a few more fourth- and fifth-grade students to allow us to hire another teacher so we can have four fourth-grade classes and four fifth-grade classes,” he said. New teachers on campus are math teacher Carol Leonard, who had been teaching at Foresthill High School and Heidi Wolff, who is transferring from Sierra Hills School to teach fourth grade. The charter school focus is enhancing “our outstanding Core academic program,” he continued. “To an extent we’ve been trying to do some of this over the past couple of years.” In fact, he pointed out, the scores from last year’s STAR tests continued to rise from years past. Other changes on campus include a breakfast program and new extracurricular offerings. During the daily nutrition break, students will now be able to purchase breakfast. “For a lot of kids, eating breakfast (before school) is a challenge,” he said. Free and reduced meals will be available. While the athletic programs will again ask for a $100 pay to play fee from families/students who can afford it, a similar program may be established for clubs and other extension programs. Among the extension programs being considered are photography, creative writing, poetry, dance and A-plus certification for computers. “Student mentoring and lunchtime activities were expanded last year and will continue through our Associated Student Body Program, our new C.A.R.E. program overseen by our counselor,” he concluded. “The student WhiT group will continue to help sustain our high-speed fiber optic network. It’s going to be an exciting opening.”