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Space issues within schools discussed

The Salisbury Township School board held a workshop meeting Nov. 9 to discuss a potential timeline to complete future capital improvement projects and to hear district administrators present data on district demographics, state testing results and teaching and learning updates.

At the start of the operations committee portion of the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kelly Pauling presented a timeline for addressing the inevitable space issue the district will soon be facing as well as the replacement of the middle school roof. In her report she noted Salisbury Elementary School is not currently out of space but analyzing preliminary enrollment projections coupled with the increasing needs of students, the data points to a need for more space to effectively serve the student population in the near future.

She offered some potential options to address the space issue such as utilizing modular classrooms, building an addition onto SES or reconfiguring the grades to include reopening Western Salisbury Elementary School. This option would not reopen WSE as a separate elementary school as in the past but could instead serve students in third and fourth grades while SES would serve kindergarten through second grade students.

Another option on the table includes moving eighth grade students to the high school or fourth grade students to middle school. Pauling noted some of these options are less ideal but she expressed to the board enrollment projections and student needs will guide decisions.

As for the middle school roof replacement, Bill Brackett, director of facilities, presented his project timeline with the expectation the project would be completed before the 2024-2025 school year.

During the curriculum and technology committee portion of the meeting, the board was presented with a summary of the district’s demographics, K-8 testing data and a teaching and learning update.

In her district demographics slides, Pauling pointed out some of the districtwide changes as it relates to the student population. Data is collected yearly as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Pauling said it is helpful to know who the families are and what their needs are.

The slides compared data gathered from 2016 through 2022 and showed the district is becoming more diverse. It also showed a rise in the need for special education services, an increase in economically disadvantaged students as well as an increase in the number of English language learners.

The data tracked student enrollment rates as well as student mobility in and out of the district which seems to be holding steady. Charter school enrollments have increased 7% since 2016 which has proved costly for the district.

The district’s testing data summary was another topic of discussion presented to the board.

Salisbury Middle School Principal Ken Parlimen summarized the results of middle school data highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the PSSA, IXL and Keystone Algebra 1 exam.

Gains have been made in many areas including an 82% pass rate on the Keystone math exam and significant gains in English Language Arts in grades 5, 7 and 8.

Some deficits need to be addressed. Grades 6, 7 and 8 are below the state average in math, sixth graders are below average in English Language Arts and eighth grade is below the state average in science.

Administration and middle school teachers are collectively working together to identify and close gaps in the curriculum as well as modifying the pacing of lessons for optimal learning. Rethinking scheduling by reducing/eliminating recess and activity period in order to increase the amount of instructional time is also being considered.

Zach Brem, Salisbury Elementary School principal, reports data on state testing indicates third grade students were 10% above the state average in math, 9% above in science and there was a 16% increase in students scoring proficient or advanced in math.

Some challenges occurred in English Language Arts where students are 10% below the state average.

As administrators reflect on the data at hand, changes have been implemented to support students in meaningful ways. Efforts have been made to bolster Title I programming and redesign the instructional schedule to offer more individualized support. Administrators also believe the utilization of the Wit & Wisdom curriculum across all grade levels should help students close some of the gaps in the English Language Arts area.

During his teaching and learning presentation, Brem reported on the many exciting events occurring at the elementary level. The much anticipated book fair was held Oct. 26 through Nov. 3 and it proved to be very successful.

Also of note is a student created slideshow which can be viewed in the lobby area at the school.

Recently, books and other materials for upcoming modules necessary to implement the reading series Wit & Wisdom arrived and were distributed to classrooms where the unpacking began. Intervention services in grades K-4 began Oct. 17.

The middle school has been awash in activities and learning experiences as Parliman pointed out in his report. Spirit week was held Oct. 14-21 complete with themed days and a dance. Field trips to Bake Oven Knob, Jacobsburg Environmental and Education Center, the Renaissance Faire and Lehigh Career & Technical Institute have occurred in and around the community.

Salisbury High School principal Heather Morningstar began her report with a list of students who received Advanced Placement scholar designation. Class of 2022 scholars include Andrew Hines, Aiden Mathieu, Maisie Oliver, Stephan Rupa and Jonas Tenzer. Scholars from the Class of 2023 are Noah Kichline, Jackson Kramp and Elizabeth Sterner.

On Nov. 2, Morningstar and SMS Assistant Principal Robert Sawicki accompanied Aevidum students to the Youth Mental Health Symposium held at the ArtsQuest Center where students learned how to support their peers and ways to make sure fellow students are aware of the resources available to them if the need arises.

Throughout the month, Spanish classes learned about Hispanic culture and celebrated Día de los Muertos Nov. 1 and 2. Homecoming week featured a pep rally, parade, football game and a chance for alumni to participate with the band by playing their respective instruments at the game.

Pauling said she would like to bring the Odyssey of the Minds program back to the district. Students from grades K-12 are eligible to participate as a team to develop solutions to STEM problems and compete in regional, state and even world competitions.

Currently, a group of students at SES is working on a problem which they plan to present to their peers and parents.

The next workshop meeting will be held 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at the administration building, 1140 Salisbury Road.