District News

Get a Jump on the New School Year!

West Des Moines Community Schools families can get a head start on the upcoming school year by paying fees and placing money in student lunch accounts this summer.

By paying this summer, you can:

  • Get through secondary registration quicker!
  • Pick up your child’s bus pass at your elementary school’s welcome back event!

Families may make payments online or at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines.

 

Fees you can pay:

  • Book fees
  • Transportation fees
  • Lunch account balances

 

When you can start:

  • You may pay your elementary student’s and junior high student’s book fees today!
  • You may pay your Valley High School, Valley Southwoods, or Walnut Creek Campus student’s book fees starting July 1.
  • You may pay transportation fees once your request for services is processed.
    • Request bus services today by going online, by downloading and mailing in a completed form, or by calling 515-633-4990 (en espanol at 515-633-4989).
  • You may add money to your child’s lunch account at any time!
    • Families who would like to fill out a free or reduced-priced lunch application and fee waivers should do so before adding money to lunch accounts or paying fees. The application will be available after July 1.

 

See what you owe:

  • To see lunch account balances, please visit Parent Online.
    • To visit Parent Online, please go to wdmcs.org, click on the “Parent” tab, and click on Nutrition’s “Check Account Balance” under the “links for parents” column.
    • Instructions about how to create a Parent Online account are available here: http://bit.ly/WDMCSParentOnline_Instructions
  • To see book or transportation fees, please visit our online payment portal — TouchBase.
    • To visit our online payment portal, go to wdmcs.org, click on the “Parent” tab and click “Make a Payment” in the “Quicklinks for Parents.”
    • When you log into the online payment portal and click on your student’s account, the fee notification will appear in red at the top of the page.
    • For more information, please see our “Making a Transaction” handout available here: Make a Transaction – Instructions
    • To create an online payment account, please see “Create an online payment account” below.

 

How to make a payment:
You may make payments online or at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines.

Our online payment portal allows you to make payments 24/7! It’s like shopping online:  You select items you want to “buy” and then click on the shopping cart to check out and pay.

  • Parents are able to pay all basic student fees and fines, add money to lunch accounts, and pay for bus transportation. For our secondary students, even more options are available, such as purchasing P.E. clothing, yearbooks, supplies, and more. And the best part? You can make payments and purchase items for all your students in one transaction!
  • To visit our online payment portal, go to wdmcs.org, click on the “Parent” tab and click “Make a Payment” in the “Quicklinks for Parents.”
  • For more information, please see our “Making a Transaction” handout available here: Make a Transaction – Instructions
  • As with most online payment systems, you will be charged a convenience fee for online payments. There is a 2 percent convenience fee with a minimum of $1 to a maximum of $5, depending on the types of and the number of transactions you are making.
  • You may make a cash, check, or credit card payment at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines. No convenience fee will be charged on payments made at the Learning Resource Center.

 

Create an online payment account:
If you do not have an online payment account, instructions are available here: Create Your Account – Instructions

Life in the WDMCS 5/27/2016

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Learning Academy
Clive Learning Academy sixth-graders hosted the annual Duane Brown Fun and Be Fit Day on Thursday, May 26. Students in preschool through fifth-grade were able to participate in stations from tug of war to sponge relays and flag tag during the active day.

Students at Clive Learning Academy explored the language, art, and culture of Mexico in Spanish class as they celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Sra. Gallentine.  Clive Learning Academy first-graders learned to introduce themselves and talk about their ages before making festive sombreros.

Clive Learning Academy students and teachers celebrated Earth Day by creating a collaborative sculpture with the help of visiting artists Pam Dennis and Ryk Weiss. Made of willow branches, recycled paper, yarn, metal, and cloth, the sculpture will soon decorate a hallway in the school.

Clive Learning Academy fourth-graders brought artifacts from their countries (Bosnia and Mexico) to collaboratively build this display for fellow learners to see. Ethnic clothing, books, money, and jewelry is on display in the main hallway and enjoyed by all.

Crestview School of Inquiry
Shelly Reed Thieman, a published poet from Des Moines, recently spoke with three classes of fourth-grade students at Crestview School of Inquiry about the haiku poetry form. She shared its history and the writing process and provided examples. Thieman also helped learners enjoy writing, rewriting, and collaborating. The students were able to share their haiku poems with her and each other.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Fairmeadows Elementary students Andrew Frizzell, Anthony Ellis, Steffen Poulsen, Andrew Croft, Gabby Thompson, Addy Kastli, Luke Hickling were recognized for the outstanding essays they wrote for the American Legion Flag Essay Contest. Rick Hammen, commander from West Des Moines American Legion Post #620, presented the awards and recognized fifth-grade teacher FNAME Wolcott as Post #620’s Teacher of the Year.

Hillside Elementary
Third- graders at Hillside Elementary visited Blank Park Zoo in conjunction with their Australian unit. They learned about animals of the Australian outback and what the animals eat and do to survive. Hands-on learning and real-life experiences helped solidify this unit’s learning in their curious minds.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Fifth-graders at Jordan Creek toured the Iowa State Capitol building. They learned about the history of the building and the variety of materials used to build it. They also made connections with their study of government as they visited the House and Senate chambers and even walked the nearly 100 steps to view the top of the dome. It was a fun way to learn more about the state government and Iowa’s history.

An all-school papier–mâché unit is wrapping up at Jordan Creek ElementaryStudents in grades 1-6 created their own personal instrument from mainly recycled and repurposed supplies like newspapers, toothpicks, beds, and starch. The art pieces were modeled from real musical instruments, and the students were able to connect the instruments to their curriculum.

Stilwell Junior High
Seventh-grade New Tech students at Stilwell Junior High recently redesigned classrooms to improve student learning. They learned about area and perimeter while redesigning the spaces. This problem-based learning project included measuring the available spaces, creating blueprints, and presenting designs to the classroom’s teacher. The teachers then picked the best redesign of their room to use as a guide for remodeling the room.

Stilwell Junior High drama students visited Hillside Elementary kindergartners and told stories with puppets, costumes, and props.

WDMCS Graduation and Commencement 2016

The West Des Moines Community Schools proudly announces that 681 students will graduate from the district this year.

West Des Moines Police and Local Coalition Collaborate to Keep Your Students Safe

BeAwareLogoThe West Des Moines Police Department and the Substance Abuse Prevention Community Coalition (SAPCC) are partnering to keep students safe this prom and graduation season. Prom and graduation are special events for the youth in our community, but both are also times that teens need guidance and support from their parents or guardians, other adults, and the community. The heightened expectations that accompany prom and graduation, along with the normal social pressures teens face, often lead to increased alcohol use and other risky behaviors.

According to the 2014 Iowa Youth Survey, nearly 40 percent of 11th-grade West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) students believe they will be more popular if they drink alcohol. Nearly 40 percent said that it is not against their values to use alcohol or drugs as a teenager. Three out of five students also said that alcohol is easy or really easy to obtain in our community, with parties, friends (older and younger than 21), and parents being the most common sources of alcohol. Most teens do identify their parents as the No. 1 influence in their decision about whether or not to drink alcohol, and nearly 75 percent of WDMCS 11th-graders said their parents would consider it wrong for them to attend a party with underage drinking. Underage drinking is not only a youth issue. Parents, guardians and other adults can be part of the solution.

To keep teens in the community safe during prom and graduation, parents and guardians can follow these tips:

  • Discuss the rules for celebrating. Talk about your rules, the school rules, and the consequences for violating those rules.
  • Know the plan for the entire evening, including who your teens will be with, where they will be going, and how they will be getting there. Establish check-in times and make sure their phones are fully charged.
  • Communicate with other parents about the prom or graduation plans. Teen safety is more likely when parents work together.
  • Emphasize that your teen should never get in a vehicle with a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If your teen will be riding in a limo or other hired transportation, be sure to find out about their alcohol policy.
  • If you are hosting a post-prom or graduation party, remember that it is illegal to serve alcohol to minors or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home. A violation of the Social Host Ordinance in West Des Moines is punishable by a $500.00 fine.
  • If you are hosting a party, take inventory of the alcohol in your home and secure it. Remember, their own home is one of the easiest places for teens to get alcohol.
  • Avoid rented hotel rooms or other destinations that will not have responsible adult supervision.
  • Be available all night, so your child can contact you at any time and remove themselves from an uncomfortable situation.
  • Encourage your child to have a wonderful, memorable, and safe evening!

You can find additional information and parent resources on the SAPCC website at BeAwareWDMCS.org, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Life in the WDMCS 5/6/2016

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Learning Academy
Clive Learning Academy fifth-graders have been building their own robots. They designed each robot to specific criteria and constraints, before testing the robots and sketching modifications. They also got to learn from West Des Moines Robotics Club representatives on April 14.

West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education member and Drake University professor Dr. Jill Johnson presented to fourth-graders at Clive Learning Academy on March 29. She taught them about tailoring a presentation to a specific audience and talked about planning.

Clive Learning Academy has been celebrating National School Library Month. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade have taken part in activities like making their own bookmarks, estimating the total number of books in the library, collaboratively working on an over-sized coloring page, and coding on their Chromebooks. Students also decorated hearts that state why they love their school library.

Crestview School of Inquiry
Crestview School of Inquiry fourth-graders have been working on books about the five regions of the United States. As part of their unit, they invited Laura Jensen-Kimball, author of “Momster,” to talk about the writing process.

Sixth-grade students at the Crestview School of Inquiry experienced the Amazing Chemistry Show as part of their Chemical Interactions unit on April 8. They learned about atoms and molecules and experimented with dry ice during the fun and interactive presentation, and one student even got to try out a hover board.

Fifth-grade Extended Learning Program students at Crestview School of Inquiry concluded a unity on probability by designing a fun fair for second-grade students. The fifth-graders learned to evaluate theoretical probability vs. experimental probability, use tree diagrams to determine outcomes, and tweak games to make them more or less fair. To show their learning, they created the fun fair, matching the prizes to the probability of winning.

Crossroads Park Elementary
Crossroads Park Elementary fifth-graders attended Exercising Your Character at Hy-Vee Hall on April 14. They danced were 30 minutes, ate lunch, and learned about goals, fitness, and character.

Fifth-grade students at Crossroads Park Elementary toured the Capitol and the State Historical Building on April 4. One class met and talked with Governor Branstad for a few minutes.

Hillside Elementary
Hillside Elementary kindergartners used magnifying glasses to look at different objects and decide if they were seeds or not. They will plant one item they identified as a seed and one item they categorized as not a seed, before observing the plantings and checking their progress.

More than 100 attend the Hillside Soccer Club each Saturday to learn skills and drills from Drake University soccer players through Opportunity on Goal, a local non-profit organization. The students also get to play a game each week to try out their new talents.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Jordan Creek Elementary held its third annual “Rock the Walk” fundraiser on April 15. Students, staff, and family members all enjoyed the beautiful weather outdoors as they walked, ran, and danced around the track and completed different activities.

Indian Hills Junior High
Eighth-grader students from Indian Hills Junior High attended the Taking the Road Less Traveled career exploration conference through the Iowa State University Program for Women in Science and Engineering on April 6. They attended career awareness sessions and took part in interactive sessions.

Stilwell Junior High
The Communications Media class from Stilwell Junior High toured KCCI on April 12. They were able to see the studio and even sit behind the anchor desk.

Valley High School
Valley High School students learned from a variety of different professionals at the Central Iowa Apprenticeship Coordination Committee’s Construction Careers and Education Expo on April 14. Students got to drive a full-size crane, run different jackhammers, use virtual welders and auto body painters, and walk on a steel I-beam.

Sophomore J.J. Kapur took third place in the Original Oratory category at the national speech and debate Tournament of Champions. The tournament is one of two prestigious national debate final events that take place each year and is the largest in the nation. Senior Danielle Reyes also ranked in the top 20 in Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Helping Students Finish Strong

Spring can be a stressful time for students as they prepare for end-of-year exams, projects, and presentations. Parents and guardians can help their children finish the year on a high note by consistently reviewing Infinite Campus with them and encouraging them to practice healthy self-care. We compiled tips on these topics from Danette Rieper, WDMCS learning support and family engagement coordinator, and Dr. Kristine Milburn, professional development/curriculum facilitator for gifted/talented programming and English teacher.

Using Infinite Campus to Prepare for Finals

InfiniteCampusLogo Infinite Campus allows students and their families to see their grades, attendance, and more, but it is most helpful when students and their parents or guardians access it together regularly. Rieper recommends that families sit down to look at Infinite Campus once a week. Instead of just looking at grades, families should discuss scores, missing work, and upcoming assignments. With final exams and projects approaching, families should make sure they are aware of the students’ grades. To prepare specifically for final exams and projects, families can review previous test or project scores.

Look at:

  • Test and project scores that are higher or lower than normal

Ask:

  • Great job on your test last week. What are some ways you studied that helped you?
  • This project grade was lower/higher than normal. What did you do differently?
  • I see your final project is due on this date. What is your plan for the project?
  • Is there a study group you can join that would help you prepare for your final?

For more Infinite Campus tips, check out our August article, “Using Infinite Campus With Your Child.”

Supporting Healthy Studying

Infinite Campus FeatureDr. Milburn conducted award-winning research that investigated the socioemotional impact on students taking four or more AP courses concurrently. Her research offered recommendations that can help all students and provides tips for parents. Here are six techniques to support healthy studying and stress management:

  1. Take Brain Breaks: Your mind works better when refreshed. Give your mind a rest for 5-10 minutes when studying. Be sure to time each break to avoid adding stress due to long periods of inactivity. Avoid technology outlets, which cause users to take longer breaks than planned. Good options for brain breaks include puzzles, walks, and stretching.
  2. Remember to Exercise: Physical activity–especially outside, fresh air activity–“wakes up” the brain and sharpens focus by increasing blood flow. Walk the dog, take a quick power walk or jog, or do some situps and pushups. For her classes, Dr. Milburn often guided students through yoga and mindful stretching instead of “cramming” the day before a big test.
  3. Eat Balanced Meals: Dr. Milburn encourages students to eat breakfast and aim for options with more protein and fiber than sugar. Avoid skipping meals or replacing balanced meals with snacks high in sugar or sodium. Read labels and focus on healthy options with protein and omega-3s. A snack of walnuts, dried blueberries, and dark chocolate contains more brain power nutrients than a candy bar.
  4. Quench Your Thirst: Water is always the best option for staying hydrated. Avoid high-sugar, high-sodium, and caffeinated options like soda and energy drinks. Failure to appropriately hydrate can lead to headaches, stomachaches, and more, all which decrease a student’s ability to focus.
  5. Catch Some Zs: Students often sacrifice sleep to finish assignments and study; but the more tired bodies and minds are, the less effective studying will be. Strive for 8 hours of sleep each day. Even 15-20 minute power naps have great restorative properties.Try Something New: Alternative therapies (art, pet, music, aroma, etc.) have been shown to lower stress and blood pressure in many situations. Iowa State University introduced pet therapy before finals in recent years, and Clive Learning Academy students successfully campaigned for a therapy dog as part of their New Tech real-world connection this year.
  6. Try Something New: Alternative therapies (art, pet, music, aroma, etc.) have been shown to lower stress and blood pressure in many situations. Iowa State University introduced pet therapy before finals in recent years, and Clive Learning Academy students successfully campaigned for a therapy dog as part of their New Tech real-world connection this year.

Committee Plans Expansion of New Tech at WDMCS

An advisory team has been meeting since January to plan the district’s expansion of the district’s New Tech learning model to the high school level.

Specifically, the team is working to answer questions including the following:

  • Should New Tech at the high school level be a school-within-a-school model OR should it be a separate New Tech high school?
  • Will students be able to passport out to take classes through the traditional high school such as AP or foreign language courses?
  • Do we require an internship or service learning credits as part of graduation requirements?
  • How would students access co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities?
  • Do we cap New Tech numbers?
  • How do we address courses that have students from different grade levels in the course?
  • What are ideas for expanding and sustaining partnerships with area businesses for the purpose of student internship experiences?

The advisory team working on the answers is made up of parents, teachers, administrators, board members, university and community college representatives, community members, and business leaders.

The goal is to have a plan in place for eighth-grade New Tech students as they register for ninth-grade classes in January 2017 for the 2017-18 school year.

WDMCS is the first school district in the state to offer New Tech schools, where students learn through real-world community-based projects and all children are assigned a personal digital device.

To learn more about New Tech, visit www.wdmcs.org/academics/new-tech/.

Reminder: Early Out on April 27, 2016

This is a reminder that all schools will dismiss 45 minutes early next Wednesday, April 27. We are providing this reminder because a “C”—which signifies a collaboration date—was inadvertently omitted on April 27, May 4, and June 1 on the printed district calendar. All WDMCS Schools dismiss early every Wednesday to allow for collaboration time. Please remember that every Wednesday is a collaboration day.

For more information about collaboration and each school’s schedule, please see the district website at www.wdmcs.org/district/our-schools/wednesday-collaboration-days/.

Thank You to Our Volunteers!

The West Des Moines Community Schools would like to say a special thank you to all our district volunteers this week. April 18-22 is National Public School Volunteer Week, and a great chance to show appreciation for all the volunteers who help make our schools better places to learn and work. From assisting in classrooms to feeding teachers during conferences and helping with student activities, we could not offer all the excellent opportunities we do without the help of our many volunteers. Thank you for working with us to support learning and our amazing students and staff!

Educator Rick Wormeli to Provide Professional Development April 29

(Photo source: twitter.com/rickwormeli2)

(Photo source: twitter.com/rickwormeli2)

There will be no school for students on Friday, April 29, 2016. It is a professional development day for teachers, who will be working with education professional Rick Wormeli.

Wormeli is an innovative educator with more than 30 years of teaching math, science, English, physical education, health, and history, as well as instructing teachers and principals. He has presented on education in all 50 states, several countries, and at the White House. He is also an education consultant for National Public Radio and USA Today and has worked with the Smithsonian Institute.

Wormeli is the author of several successful books including “Day One and Beyond,” “Summarization in Any Subject,” and the award-winning “Meet Me in the Middle.” He is also a columnist for Middle Ground magazine and a contributor to the ASCD’s (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Educational Leadership magazine. His work has been covered by numerous media outlets, including Good Morning America, National Geographic, and The Washington Post.

To learn more about professional development in the West Des Moines Community Schools, visit www.wdmcs.org/academics/professional-development/.