Storm Lake Community School District concludes year of challenges and success

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While there have been plenty of challenges, the 2021 calendar year has been full of milestones, highlights and accomplishments for Storm students and staff. Lake Community school district.

In January, our elementary STEM students received a thank you from NASA for the “lunar kit” they put in place as the agency conducted a hot shot test for its next lunar rocket.

Later in the year, the Iowa Department of Education highlighted the district’s summer community lunches in a feature article on its website. The meals were a big success over the summer, with students and community members coming together to eat and participate in activities once a month while the school was closed.

Additionally, as part of an effort to help needy community members who are confined to the home, SLHS students have delivered items through the Friends with Food Delivery program. It was a great way for them to to help go out, serve their community and get to know residents they probably wouldn’t otherwise luck meet.

The summer school was also a great success,offering educational opportunities and socio-emotional supports to students in June and July. The program has been expanded through a successful partnership between SLCSD and Buena Vista University.

In the fall, Storm Lake Middle School held its very first color run. The event was a huge success, raising funds for student field trips, incentives and learning opportunities throughout the year. The mile-long course featured a drum line, racing music, obstacles, and color stations.

In October, the University of Northern Iowa announced a new partnership with SLCSD which will give university student teachers opportunities to work with emerging bilingual students. The are 24 different languages ​​spoken in Storm Lake schools with Spanish speakers being the largest ELL group.

Perhaps the most notable success of the year has been the hard work and collaboration that ensured that the district’s new Storm Lake Elementary School will be ready for kindergarten students in January. The work of Jeff Tollefson, Mike Sullivan and many others has helped ensure that the new school will be able to accommodate students next month.

The year has also come with a number of challenges to overcome. Students and families continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and major children’s health care organizations have declared a national child and youth mental health emergency. The district responded to the needs of students by creating a trauma-informed team, adding mental health counselors, and providing mental health first aid training for youth and adolescents.

The SLCSD also continues to experience a staff shortage, as in many schools across the country. At one point, the district had over 40 vacant positions. The shortage of substitute teachers has put further strain on the existing staff, who continue to work hard and maintain a positive attitude despite all the difficulties encountered.

Another concern for the SLCSD is the fact that 38 seniors were unable to graduate on time in spring 2021. To provide more detailed background, of those 38 students, 10 have moved in in the past two years with a severely behind in credits, seven had attendance problems throughout high school. and four had precarious housing and had to work long hours to make ends meet.

Currently, the number of students who are not on track to graduate in 2022 is slightly higher than what the district generally sees. The district believes that this can be attributed in large part to the difficulties many students had during the pandemic, including returning to regular in-person learning.

AT To address this ongoing challenge, the district launched an attendance team focused on research-based practices to help students improve their attendance. SLCSD also fired in a new group of families to provide another layer of parent feedback and applied for a socio-emotional learning grant to increase the number of social workers on the staff.

In addition, federal relief dollars allowed SLCSD to increase tutoring during the winter break. Storm Lake and St. Mary’s alumni help struggling students, and federal aid covers additional staff to support tutoring and open the gymnasium to provide a warm and safe space for children to be active.

Storm Lake High School Leadership Team also decided to require students to be on the right track at graduate to represent the school in extracurricular activities. This change was not easy, but administrators believe it is the right thing to do to inspire students to put in the work and raise their level of learning.

“While we have a lot to celebrate here in the schools of Storm Lake, we continue to face a wide variety of challenges facing our students and their families during this difficult time,” said Dr. Stacey Cole, Superintendent. “That said, we won’t let these barriers stop us from raising our expectations of our students. We remain focused on anticipating and meeting the needs of our students in any way possible. We are so fortunate to have the support of our families, staff, partners and community members as we make it happen.


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