New School Year: A Shift in Focus

One reminder that is stressed during training in the School of Tomorrow® system is that staff are to be constantly engaged with students in the Learning Center, attending to, and sometimes anticipating student needs and responding to them appropriately and in a timely manner. The focus is on the students. When the school year ends, however, and students are on summer break, staff shifts their focus on preparing for the next school year. Though each school is different, there are some common elements to which we pay special attention during this time.

REVIEW AND UPDATE RECORDS. At the end of each school year, all records are reviewed once more before these are filed under each student’s Permanent Record which are better kept in a central location for confidentiality and easy access when needed. This review is important for schools who submit End of School Year reports to the Department of Education. The end of each school year is also the time when transferring or graduating students request record releases or different types of school applications and recommendations, 

A lot of checking and rechecking is necessary so this will involve several staff members. It is wise to work in teams, as it is very easy for one person to misread or miss the many details in verifying the accuracy of student records. If a school has a registrar or records officer, she can work alongside a member of each Learning Center team. This makes an otherwise tedious process easier.

REMOVE, REPAIR, REPAINT, REPLACE, AND REVITALIZE. Most schools have limited storage space, but most of us also do not like throwing things away. It is surprising how much “stuff” we can accumulate in a year! It therefore becomes necessary for all staff to do an inventory of all supplies and equipment within their responsibility at the end of each year. All used PACEs and other papers must be carted off to a recycling plant; broken equipment which cannot be repaired must also be disposed. There is a saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” so a school may choose to have a day when all items for disposal are placed on “display” for staff to go through, claim, AND take off school premises. A school may also choose to donate old, rarely, or never used items to another church or ministry. Whatever a school decides to do, there is an undeniable feeling of “lightness” once the premises are free of clutter (at least, until next year).

Within the school year, there is also the normal “wear and tear” of our facilities. Although some “emergency” repairs can and should be done by maintenance staff within the year, it is during summer when major repairs are done. This is also the best time to repaint furniture, rooms, and buildings. Depending on the size of the school, the number of Learning Center offices, variety of the furniture and the budget, it is wise to limit the repainting done each summer. Some schools are blessed with in-house staff who have the skills to do this, while others may need to get outside help, depending on the extent of the needed repairs and painting.

Replacing old equipment with new ones may also be necessary no matter how well-maintained they are. Purchasing air conditioning units, electric fans, light fixtures, computers, etc. is always costly and should be done prudently.

When all of the above are done, then the creativity of staff become crucial as they seek to make their Learning Centers/areas/rooms exciting and fun for the students of the new school year. Colorful and interactive bulletin boards, picture frames, flower arrangements, privilege areas, reading nooks, supply cabinets, and an area for quiet play can all be designed tastefully and in accordance with student needs.

CONSTRUCT PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES.  With the school calendar as the main guide, staff has the time during summer to plan programs and activities to take place later in the year, usually centered on a pre-determined theme, purpose, or objective. Major activities involve most, if not all, school staff, and require months of preparation, so a goal plan for all involved must be devised with specific tasks and deadlines for timely execution and accountability. This prevents “cramming” only weeks (sometimes days) before a much-advertised and awaited school-wide activity which usually results in poorly-executed programs, disappointed students and parents, and finger-pointing or blame-casting amongst staff.

Decide on a theme for the year, choose Bible memory passages, character traits to emphasize and monthly songs. Use this time for staff to learn the songs to support the students as they learn them.

REFRESH AND EQUIP STAFF. Vacation for students is also vacation for staff. With all the planning and other work which can and should be done only during summer, school staff will necessarily be engaged in several tasks and responsibilities at this time. However, if we would like to have staff excited at the beginning of each school year, there MUST be some time off for everyone. Encourage staff to take vacation leaves, free leaves, incentive leaves, etc. Although this requires a lot of coordinating, it is possible to give ALL staff SOME time off within the summer break.

Consider a team building event.  This will build fellow- staff relationships and allow everyone to get to know new staff.  If you can’t afford a professional, consider borrowing someone from another school that has benefitted from such an activity.

Equipping of staff by enhancing their skills empowers them and benefits the school. Writing and/or hosting workshops develop language and communication skills and confidence; photography lessons, photoshop and video editing sessions will result in better school programs; seminars about children with special needs will help staff respond properly to struggling students. Suggestions for similar activities should be elicited from the staff themselves. Enhancement programs like these are a part of a school’s purpose of continuing education for staff.

These suggestions for school preparations for the coming year are by no means exhaustive. All schools, though, should have a summer preparation plan in place every year that is in accordance with the needs of students and staff. This shift in focus is really the only way to ensure that each school year becomes better than the last one. And since “What is worth doing is worth doing well,” we owe it to our students, parents, and staff to utilize each summer break to prepare for the best school year that you have ever had – the NEXT one!

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