11-19-2020 Coloma Schools holds virtual “Parent Teacher” conferences, with satisfactory participatio

By Annette Christie The report of the administrators at the Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 Coloma School Board meeting was that the overall participation in the virtual parent teacher conferences held recently was positive. At the high school there was 18% attendance by parents. Principal Mike Churchill said that regularly there was about 22%. The focus for the conferences this year was on students that are in the D and F range as far as a grade goes.

High School

Churchill reported that the high school grade levels have completed fall testing of the PSAT and SAT. They did get to select a Homecoming king and queen during recent homecoming festivities even though they were very different than in the past. The Student Council is heading up a hallway decoration contest and a guest judge will be brought in to do the judging. This was the first time in Coloma’s history that both the cross country boys and girls attended the state competition at MIS, Churchill said, “It was a great experience. The student athletes did a fantastic job, performed well, and represented well.” In the beginning of the season, the athletes competing were told that there would be no state meet, so they entered the sport understanding that there may be no state-wide competition to reach for. Junior High Junior High Principal Wendy Tremblay told the board that their conferences also focused on students that were struggling. They sent out 285 invitations and conducted 128 conferences. Berrien RESA applied for a grant and received funding for the services of a mental health consultant for this year. The consultants will be working with students into junior high and will meet with small groups to focus on the TRAILS program developed by the University of Michigan. TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students), is a unique program that brings effective mental health care to students with symptoms of depression and anxiety throughout Michigan. Depression and anxiety now affect one in five school-aged youth. Due to the challenges families face when trying to access effective mental health care, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists are often the only sources for much-needed help. The TRAILS program provides didactic instruction to school professionals in evidence-based mental health care approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness and then links community mental health providers with their local schools to provide follow-up coaching. In early demonstration trials, this training paired with in-person coaching has led to significant improvement in school professionals’ uptake and utilization of CBT. Additionally, students experienced decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result of better self-awareness and a toolkit of healthful coping strategies. These promising findings inspired the project team to expand the program throughout Michigan. The 1-mile Turkey Trot event for all sixth graders will be held this week. Tremblay noted that while the weather may not be so great, the event is always fun and provides a little bit of “normal”. As part of the Election Day festivities, the school conducted Student Council offices voting where they nominated a president and vice president. All the other candidates that ran for office will be student representatives. Intermediate School At the Intermediate School, Principal Karra Hafer said that 72% of their parents participated in the virtual teacher conferences. They received mixed feedback on the virtual conferences. The students will soon be participating in their kindness and compassion drive at the end of this month November 23 – December 4, where they will be collecting new and unwrapped toys, canned goods, gently used coats and winter gear. At the same time, they will be holding a spirit week as well. Elementary Elementary Principal John Klein told the board that virtual conferences went well. On the recent remote day they had 90% participation and a lot of the families were able to work out some of the bugs that come along with technology issues. For the students, mask wearing is becoming second nature and fewer prompts are needed. The elementary school will be participating in the kindness and compassion drive as well, however he noted that some of those items gathered will be used directly for students and their families in the district. Each year, the district sends home an opportunity for a family to complete a holiday assistance application. This allows the district to know about needs in the home. Often the school is asked by church and non-profit organizations that want to help out community members especially in the holiday season, this way the school district can assist in connecting the organization to the local families in need. As part of the kindness and compassion drive, they will have specific days for specific items, i.e., personal care items, canned foods, toys, etc. The items are also used to provide goods for other organizations as well. Klien said that the toys that they collect go to the Wonderland toy store in Benton Harbor, the winter gear gathered is kept and distributed to the students that do not have adequate outdoor wear, and the canned goods go to a local food pantry. Superintendent report Superintendent Dave Ehlers announced that for Thanksgiving dinner this year, every kid that attends Coloma Schools is able to sign up for a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings. In addition, the district is still sending kids home with meals on the weekends. All of this generosity is provided by the food service company. Ehlers noted that right now the enrollment is estimated at 1230.33 FTEs. They are currently 72 down from last year, as they budgeted 65 down from last year. Ehlers noted that many school districts are down numbers wise and suspect that home schooling is affecting that. Ehlers and Board President Heidi Ishmael were recently involved in a round table of sorts for administrators and board leadership to share ideas and hot topics in the various districts. They were all sharing their experiences with COVID-19 and how they are handling it with a shared commitment to go face to face for as long as they can. That being said, Ehlers announced that the high school graduation date is set for May 28, 2021 at 7:00 p.m., pending of course, on the state of COVID-19 and crowd restrictions.

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