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Archive for School: Indian Hills Junior High

Thomas-McGinnis Becomes National Debate Champion

Conal Thomas-McGinnis with his first place trophy for middle school Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Conal Thomas-McGinnis.

Incoming Valley Southwoods Freshman High School student Conal Thomas-McGinnis won the junior high Lincoln-Douglas debate tournament at the 2015 National Speech and Debate Tournament. The incoming ninth-grader is the second national champion from the WDMCS district in three years; incoming junior Trent Gilbert was the national champion in 2013.

At the same tournament this year, recent Valley High School graduates Rishi Shah and Brody Diehn made it to round 11 in policy debate, making them one of the top 24 high school policy debate teams in the country.

Recent Valley grad Nolan Dahm was the 10th speaker in the policy division, and Gilbert made it to round eight in high school Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Incoming seventh-graders Bevan Fogdall and Isabella Nadel were octofinalists in policy debate, and incoming eighth-grader Animesh Joshi was an octofinalist for Lincoln-Douglas debate. Incoming freshman Joseph Whisler made it to double-octofinals (top 32) for Lincoln-Douglas debate.

The Valley debate team was founded in 1968. High school and junior high school students can participate in debate. The team attends 35–40 competitions per year, traveling to different locations including Yale and Stanford universities. This year’s National Speech and Debate Tournament was held in Dallas by the National Speech and Debate Association.

(Photo credits: David McGinnis)

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Help Stop the Spread of the Flu

Washing Hands

Reports of the flu are on the rise statewide as West Des Moines Community School District students return to class this week. Parents and caregivers are being reminded of the warning signs of influenza in children and precautions that will help keep the virus from spreading at school and also at home.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports that the number of cases in Iowa has increased since students left for winter break. The flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May.

Our school nurses are staying updated about this season’s illness and are monitoring reports. They are available to help your child if he or she becomes ill at school. Nurses will notify you if your child needs to be released from school.

Teachers and staff members also help prevent the spread of illness by teaching and reminding students about good hand-washing and cough-hygiene practices. You can help us by reinforcing these practices at home. These include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

In addition, our custodial staff disinfects phones, doorknobs and light switches daily.

Knowing the signs of the flu – or influenza – is important. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100 degrees or higher* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

If your child does become ill, the Iowa Department of Public Health recommends that you should consult your child’s doctor and children should stay home from school. Children should be fever-free for 24 hours WITHOUT the help of fever-reducing medicines before returning to school.

Most healthy people recover from the flu without complications. However, some cases may become severe. Emergency warning signs that children need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Working together, we can help keep students healthy and ready to learn. Below is additional information and resources about the flu that may be helpful.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your school nurse or building principals.

Parent Resources:

Key Facts About Seasonal Flu (CDC)
Influenza – Frequently Asked Questions (IDPH)
The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick (CDC)
Flu Guide for Parents (CDC)


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Boundary Committee Meets October 21

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Boundary Committee Meets October 7

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Working Committee on Boundary Study to Meet

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10 Tips for Getting Your Child to School

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Life in the WDMCS 1/21/14

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.

District Valley Archery took home first place in the elementary and middle school divisions, while placing second in the high school division at the Des Moines Metro Challenge at Johnston High School. In the elementary division, the Jordan Creek girls swept the top three slots with Tessa Morgan placing fist with 228 out of 300, Cynnava McAvoy placing second with 213 and Kaci Kopf placing third with 193. Jordan Creek’s Kaleb Sander placed first in the boys division with a 222 score. In the middle school division, Stilwell’s Mitchell O’Meara placed first with a score of 278 and Joe Adamson was second with 272. Stilwell’s Katherine Van Arnum was the top finisher for the girls, placing fourth with a 256. Valley’s top finishers were Ella Bishop in third with a score of 266 and Ryan Johnston placing third with a 281.

Clive Elementary Clive Elementary students participated in a Rock In Prevention assembly Friday, January 10.  Rock In Prevention teaches children to live happy healthy drug free lives and prevent bullying.  During the assembly students enjoyed singing and dancing to the rockin’ music.  All students acted out different scenarios to demonstrate how to stop bullying.  Sixth grade students from Clive were selected to be leaders and help out during all of the assemblies.  Follow-up guides and CD’s were sent home with every student to continue to encourage students to make healthy decisions in all life areas.

Crossroads Park Elementary An adult English class is being offered to Crossroads Park Elementary parents who want to increase their English skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.  This class is offered through West Des Moines Community Education and is held at Crossroads Park Elementary on Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 p.m. during the months of January and February.    Former second grade teacher, Jana Foley, is instructing the class.

Fairmeadows Elementary Fairmeadows Elementary students in Rhonda DeRocher’s first grade class recently enjoyed stories read by Carol Engelmann’s Valley High School advanced speech class.

Hillside Elementary Fifth grade band students at Hillside Elementary are working very hard this month in preparation for the annual All-District Band Spectacular held at Valley Southwoods on Tuesday February 11 at 6:30 p.m. Students from across the district have been preparing a wide variety of short pieces, showcasing their development in musicianship and playing technique since beginning their instruments in September. The 57-member Hillside fifth grade band, led by director Jake Strachan, also meets for weekly small-group lessons, allowing students to focus on instrument-specific technique development, fingerings, and other playing skills. This lesson time is crucial in fulfilling the individual needs of young instrumentalists in their first few years of playing. WDMCS band directors hope to continue and further improve the district’s strong band program traditions through large annual collaborations like the All-District Fifth Grade Band Spectacular, the 6-12 grade All-District Marching Band performance at Valleyfest, and our Sixth Grade Honor Band, which will perform with the other Sixth Grade Honor ensembles in May.

Robbie Robinson’s class, and the rest of the third grade at Hillside Elementary, is just finishing a unit on transformation.  This theme has guided the students through several exploratory projects that included the creation of painted tissue paper art inspired by Eric Carle and the construction of a PowerPoint and model planet the students have been studying independently.  This unit has been very exciting and educational for the students and has encompassed a wide range of learning modalities. In addition to some excellent class projects, the third graders will soon be resuming their hip-hop classes with Robinson.  The dance classes have been an excellent way for students to learn a contemporary form of movement that is both fun and a treat for the cardiovascular system.  The class has been exposed to traditional top rock and six-step movements that hark back to the foundations of breakdancing.  With almost 60 students, the hip-hop class has been an exciting and invigorating addition to the multitude of Hillside Elementary extracurricular activities.

Jordan Creek Elementary The Jordan Creek Chorus is busy preparing for their upcoming March concerts.  The chorus is an extracurricular ensemble that rehearses before school on Monday and Friday mornings.  Currently 118 fifth and sixth graders are in the chorus; music teacher Amy Hachmann is the director.  The students are singing literature from a variety of genres for their performances.  Families, neighbors, friends and community members are invited to attend the evening concert on Tuesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in the Jordan Creek gymnasium.

Students at Jordan Creek elementary are enjoying the opportunity to read more in Spanish.  Thanks to the district leadership, schools were provided money in the fall for Hispanic Heritage month.  Candace Sherwood, Spanish teacher, along with the help of Kristy Skoglund, media center staff, selected bilingual and Spanish books to add to the collection.  We are excited that students will have more choices in their selections at the media center. Since students only have Spanish class for an hour a week, this is an excellent opportunity to provide additional practice. During class, students love hearing and reading in another language.  How can you beat a story about Froggy or Curious George in Spanish?  Students DO understand even if they don’t know every word!  Students who read in Spanish develop a richer vocabulary. Studies have shown that reading in both languages enhances language proficiency in both Spanish and English. Another reading opportunity is provided through a new Scholastic program called Club Leo.  Jordan Creek students in third grade are able to purchase books and develop their own libraries at home.  Due to the success of this program, other grade levels will probably be added in the future.  What a delight to see students excited about reading outside of class.  Through books we are able to extend the FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools) into the community.Reading is just one reason that the FLES program has been very successful.  We incorporate reading, writing, listening, speaking, and culture into our curriculum.  Recently, a team of Cedar Falls teachers requested a visit to Jordan Creek to observe and find out more about our program.  Their district is implementing a similar program and they chose our school as an exemplary model.  They were impressed with the language proficiency of the students at all grade levels.  Indeed, students in West Des Moines are fortunate to benefit from learning another language.  At Jordan Creek the students will now be learning even more with the addition of reading materials.

Valley High School Pasta for Prom Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser will be held Friday, January 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Valley’s north gym. Meal includes caesar salad, pasta (marinara or alfredo sauce), breadsticks and beverage.  Desserts will also be available for purchase.  Tickets are $7 in advance (recommended) or $8 at the door and $6 for children ages six and under. Contact Kelli King at or 633-4258, if you have questions. All proceeds will go to help fund the Valley prom April 12.

All juniors in an Iowa high school or a home-school program are eligible to apply for this award honoring the 31st U.S. President and his accomplishments. Approximately 15 Iowa high school juniors who propose, and then accomplish, projects of their own design will receive $1,000 awards, with three students going on to receive $5,000 scholarships. Full details are available in the Counseling Center, and online at The application deadline is March 31, 2014.

Congrats to Choralation on being named Grand Champion of the Waukee Star Struck Show Choir Invitational Jan. 18. Other honors included Best Vocals, Best Show Band and Best Female Soloist to Emma Stier. Ignition also had a great showing, placing second out of 10 choirs in the prep division. Choralation is coached by Ryan Deignan and Ignition is coached by Haley Gibbons.

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