As online learning coordinator for the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS), Carrie Jacobs’ No. 1 goal is preparing students for whatever comes next in life.
Through collecting and researching data on online learning, she knows today’s students will have some type of online learning experience beyond high school. Whether it’s on-the-job training or completing coursework in college, students will need to know how to learn online. About 33 percent of college students are taking at least one course online, according to a 2018 survey by the Babson Survey Research Group. Last year, 41.8 percent of the enrolled student body in Iowa took at least one course online.
“What better way to learn online than in school right now, where it’s free? If students take that online course in college and don’t know how to learn online, it’s a really expensive failure if they don’t get through it or if they’re struggling,” Jacobs said. “It’s just another venue for us as teachers and as K-12 institutions to better prepare them.”
Watch: Get to know Carrie Jacobs
Jacobs was part of the first WDMCS Online Learning Committee in 2014, which explores and expands online learning options for students in the district. At the time, WDMCS had offered “blended” courses—a combination of face-to-face instruction, digital online instruction, and individualized one-on-one time. And last school year for grades 9-12, WDMCS provided its highest number of online learning opportunities: two courses at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School and nine at Valley High School.
But Jacobs said fewer blended courses are being offered this year in response to students’ desires.
“Once we started trying the blended courses, it’s not what students were wanting. Students are wanting fully online,” she explained. “Students—especially younger students—are wanting that advanced route. They want to be able to get high school credits when they’re maxed out of their elementary standards.” Jacobs used math as an example, where students needing to take pre-algebra or algebra in the past were bused to the school or used Edgenuity. Now, they are able to take it online, forming a relationship with the teacher for feedback teacher and saving the district on busing costs.
Additionally, Jacobs said students are opting for homeschooling and online learning due to a variety of reasons, like health and family situations.
“We’re losing those kids to open enrollment, and that’s where the push to develop these fully online courses came about,” Jacobs said. “We hope to better serve all students and the population that needs something different than the traditional, sit-in-the-classroom way of doing things.”
- Online and ‘In Real Life’: Learning with Digital Natives
- Three Tips to Make Online Learning Work for Your Child
In September, WDMCS announced a partnership with the city of West Des Moines, Microsoft, and T-Mobile, where mifis—portable wireless devices for internet access—were provided to about 200 low-income Hillside Elementary School students. The partnership is part of a larger initiative with the city and Microsoft to address broadband accessibility and affordability for students and residents in the Valley Junction neighborhood.
Jacobs hopes WDMCS continues that process, eventually being able to provide resources for all students at all schools. Over the past few years, she’s compiled a comprehensive list for students and families outlining all of the local businesses, restaurants, libraries, and other places in the area that have free Wi-Fi.
Until then, how can students overcome obstacles when completing internet-based tasks away from school? That’s where Canvas, the district’s official learning management system, comes in, Jacobs said.
“One of the reasons why we chose Canvas is that Canvas has an app, so if a student does have a smartphone, there is a Canvas app for students, parents, and teachers,” she explained. “Sometimes if a student might not have internet at home, they have a smartphone that they can do work from.”
Another hurdle is making sure students stay on track with their online coursework. Jacobs said online courses have the exact student-to-teacher ratio that WDMCS has in its current class offerings. The online courses will also be taken in either first or eighth periods.
“The teacher that teaches these online courses, they will have that period as their office hours so the student isn’t floundering on their own,” Jacobs said. “They have a teacher that is there and able to support and help.
“We’ve built in a lot of levels of support to help these students find success and support the teacher.”
- December 5, 2018
- November 20, 2018
Sixth-grade students from all eight West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) elementary schools will travel to Valley High School on Tuesday, Nov. 20, to play in the 43rd Annual Steve France Sixth-Grade Volleyball Tournament. Family members are invited to attend and cheer their sixth-graders on, but each person must have a visitor badge to attend.
To get your visitor’s badge for the Sixth-Grade Volleyball Tournament:
- Option 1—Before Nov. 20: Contact your child’s school before the event. Watch for communication from your school about how to get a badge, contact the main office, or talk with your child’s teacher.
- Option 2—On Nov. 20: Go directly to Valley High School’s main office upon arriving. They will provide you a visitor badge so you can access the tournament in the Field House.
We hope you can join us for the tournament on Nov. 20!
43rd Annual Steve France Sixth-Grade Volleyball Tournament
Tuesday, Nov. 20 (girls games at 11:30 a.m.; boys games at 12:40 p.m.)
Field House, Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines
- November 13, 2018
- November 2, 2018
As a part of the physical education program in grades 4-12, West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) is participating in the Presidential Youth Fitness Program—the national fitness education and assessment program. Through participation in this program, we strive to empower students to be fit and active for life.
As a result of our participation in the program, students will take part in the FitnessGram® health-related fitness assessment. This assessment, designed for students in grades 4-12, measures aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.
The FitnessGram® assessment was chosen as part of the assessment of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program because it:
- allows students to compare their scores with standards that have been identified for good health. This limits students from being compared to other students participating in the assessment.
- assesses the current fitness level of students and promotes individual goal setting, allowing students to take ownership of their health.
- does not assess skill nor athletic ability. Students who are regularly physically active (at least 60 minutes a day) should be able to achieve their health fitness goals.
Students in grades 4-6 will be assessed on the PACER (aerobic capacity test). Students in grades 7-12 will be assessed on the PACER, the curl-up, the push-up, and the back-saver sit-and-reach test.
Through our participation in the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, your child will learn how to set goals, interpret fitness assessment results, and learn what they can do to improve their physical well-being.
If your child is in grades 4-12, you will receive an emailed copy of your student’s FitnessGram results and general information explaining the results. WDMCS believes that by providing you and your child this health-related information, you can guide and support your child in leading a healthy lifestyle.
All students enrolled in physical education (grades 4-12) will participate. For your child’s safety, it is important for him/her to wear athletic shoes and socks.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact your child’s Physical Education teacher. You may also wish to visit the program’s website, www.pyfp.org, for more details.
WDMCS está participando en el Programa Presidencial de Acondicionamiento Físico para Jóvenes – Prueba PACER
Como parte del programa de educación física en los grados 4-12, las Escuelas de la Comunidad de West Des Moines (WDMCS) están participando en el Programa Presidencial de Acondicionamiento Físico para Jóvenes – el programa nacional de educación y evaluación sobre el buen estado físico. Por medio de la participación en este programa, nos esforzamos para capacitar a los estudiantes para que estén en buena forma y sean activos todas sus vidas.
Como resultado de nuestra participación en el programa, los estudiantes participarán en la evaluación de la condición física relacionada con la salud FitnessGram®. Esta evaluación, diseñada para estudiantes en los grados 4-12, mide la capacidad aeróbica, la fuerza y resistencia muscular, y la flexibilidad.
La evaluación de la condición física relacionada con la salud FitnessGram® fue elegido como la evaluación del Programa Presidencial de Acondicionamiento Físico para Jóvenes porque:
- les permite a los estudiantes comparar sus puntajes con estándares que han sido identificados para una buena salud. Esto evita que los estudiantes sean comparados con otros estudiantes que participan en la evaluación.
- evalúa el nivel de condición física actual de los estudiantes y promueve el establecimiento de metas individuales, permitiéndoles a los estudiantes hacerse cargo de su propia salud.
- no evalúa destreza ni habilidad atlética. Los estudiantes que son regularmente activos físicamente (por lo menos 60 minutos al día) deben poder alcanzar sus objetivos de salud física.
Los estudiantes en los grados de 4 a 6 serán evaluados en el PACER (evaluación de capacidad aeróbica). Los estudiantes en los grados de 7 a 12 serán evaluados en el PACER, flexiones, abdominales y sentarse y alcanzar.
Por medio de nuestra participación en el Programa Presidencial de Acondicionamiento Físico para Jóvenes, su hijo(a) aprenderá cómo establecer metas, interpretar los resultados de las evaluaciones de acondicionamiento físico y aprender qué puede hacer para mejorar su bienestar físico.
Si su hijo(a) está en los grados 4-12, usted recibirá una copia por correo electrónico de los resultados de FitnessGram de él/ella e información general que explica los resultados. WDMCS cree que al proporcionarle a usted y a su hijo(a) esta información relacionada con la salud, usted puede guiar y ayudar a su hijo(a) a llevar un estilo de vida saludable.
Todos los estudiantes matriculados en educación física (grados 4-12) participarán. Para la seguridad de su hijo(a), es importante que él/ella use calzado deportivo y calcetines.
Si tiene alguna pregunta, siéntase en libertad de comunicarse con el/la maestro(a) de educación física de su hijo(a). También puede visitar el sitio web del programa, www.pyfp.org, para obtener más detalles.
- October 29, 2018
The West Des Moines Community Schools is getting ready for winter weather and will be testing the notification system at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1. This system helps keep students and staff safe by providing notifications of inclement weather or emergency situation school closings.
The call will come from 515-633-5599 and is ONLY A TEST.
To make sure you receive the call:
- Have an Infinite Campus account. If you don’t have an account, call your school office.
- Once you have an Infinite Campus account, you may enter your preferred phone number in “Contact Preferences.”
Have questions or need assistance?
- Your school office can answer your questions or update your information.
- If you have an Infinite Campus account, you can also use these instructions to change your information in Infinite Campus.
To make sure you receive the call:
- Log in to your Infinite Campus account. If you have a district email account, then you have an Infinite Campus account.
- Enter your preferred number into Infinite Campus and review your Messenger Preferences.
If you are unsure about either of the above steps, follow these instructions.
- October 25, 2018
Westridge Elementary presents Disney’s “Peter Pan Jr.” Based on the classic J.M. Barrie story and the Disney film, the production is “a modern version of the timeless tale about a boy who wouldn’t grow up.”
Wendy Darling loves to tell stories to her brothers, Michael and John. When her father announces she must move out of the nursery, Peter Pan comes to visit the children and whisks them away to Neverland. Their journey introduces them to the Lost Boys, Mermaids, and even the infamous pirate Captain Hook! It’s Peter to the rescue when Wendy is taken captive by the dreaded captain, who has his own sinister plans in mind for our hero.
The production features sixth-grader Claire Neuendorf as Peter Pan, sixth-grader Emily Kramer as Wendy, fifth-grader Savannah McBride as Tinker Bell, sixth-graders Eben Van Akrel as John and Alton Ladd as Michael, and sixth-grader Christopher Howie as Captain Hook. More than 80 Westridge Elementary students, staff, and family members make up the rest of the cast and crew.
Performances are at 4 p.m. on Oct. 27 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 28. There will also be a school performance at 2 p.m. on Oct. 26.
- October 24, 2018
Fifth-grade native Spanish speakers from all WDMCS elementaries got to practice and develop their Spanish language skills during the annual Competencia de Hispanos.
- October 18, 2018
The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Transportation Department strives to serve the needs of all students and to provide safe, efficient transportation to and from school and school-related activities.
Alongside the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), WDMCS is proud to observe National School Bus Safety Week from Oct. 22-26, which is recognized during the third full week of October each year.
“National School Bus Safety Week is an active and evolving public education program and an excellent way for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety,” NAPT says.
Robin Pickard, Transportation Director at WDMCS, wants to utilize National School Bus Safety Week to highlight the importance to motorists in the district to watch for students near school buses and obey all school bus traffic laws.
“We can use the opportunity to emphasize to the students the importance of practicing safe loading, unloading and bus riding rules,” Pickard said. “It is also a time to celebrate the hard work of our employees!”
Currently at WDMCS, there are 47 school bus drivers transporting about 3,200 students daily. Last school year, WDMCS school buses traveled more than 600,000 miles, Pickard said. She added how it takes about a month of training before WDMCS school bus drivers get behind wheel with students.
“The training involves hours of driving, classroom instruction, and testing at the Iowa Department of Transportation, “Pickard explained. “They also require mandatory annual refresher training through the Iowa Department of Education. When drivers are done training, they almost all agree that the training is very comprehensive and a lot more involved than they thought.”
This year’s theme for National School Bus Safety Week is “My Driver — My Safety Hero!” Pickard says the school bus drivers at WDMCS are “second to none.”
“Each one of them have chosen this line of work because they want to work with children. Their job is not simply just driving, it is relating with students; they develop relationships with their students and care about them.” she said. “Our employees work hard to ensure each student makes it to school and back home safely every day.
“Many of our employees come back year after year and get to watch the students grow through the years, and that is our ultimate goal. “
Watch a one-minute profile on Christine Ellis, who has been a school bus driver in the district for 13 years.
WDMCS Profile: Christine Ellis
School bus safety is a shared responsibility among parents, students, and the bus driver.
Required Stopping For School Buses
As a driver, it’s vital to understand when you are required to stop for a school bus.
When a drivers approach a school bus from the rear and see flashing red or amber warning lights, the Iowa Department of Transportation says, you are not permitted to pass the school bus and should be prepared to stop.
“Stop behind the school bus when the school bus stops and the stop arm is extended,” the Iowa DOT says. “Stop no closer than 15 feet from the rear of the bus, and remain stopped until the stop arm is retracted and school bus starts moving again. Proceed with caution.”
When drivers meet the bus from the front and see flashing red or amber warning lights, you must slow your vehicle to 20 miles per hour and be prepared to stop.
“Stop in front of the school bus when the school bus stops and its stop arm is extended,” the Iowa DOT says. “Remain stopped until the stop arm is retracted. Proceed with caution.”
Source: Iowa Department of Transportation
One last thing…
Be sure to thank your WDMCS school bus driver, and practice safe bus riding during National School Bus Safety Week and every week!
- October 17, 2018