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Projects approved to add learning centers at schools

STEAM Center planned for DMS; Outdoor classroom at USJ

The Demopolis Board of Education has paved the way for two construction projects designed to expand learning opportunities for students at Demopolis Middle School and U.S. Jones Elementary.

At the middle school, a former shop building behind the school will become a Center for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). At U.S. Jones, an outdoor classroom will be constructed.

According to Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, the STEAM Center at DMS will be made available to all teachers within the school system with the first priority be given to students in the third through eighth grades. The facility will house programs that emphasize connections with STEAM education such as a fine arts studio, coding and programming computer lab, virtual reality and maker space stations, collaborative brainstorming area, as well as a gallery space for group presentations.

The outdoor classroom at USJ will include amphitheater style seating for up to 200 students and serve as an area where classes or an entire grade level can engage in hands-on learning outside the four walls of a traditional class setting.

“We have several teachers in our system who are incorporating STEAM education in their lessons on a daily basis,” Kallhoff said. “Making modifications on these two campuses will give our teachers and students an environment to incorporate hands-on activities, problem solving skills, collaboration, creativity, and higher-order thinking abilities. These are the characteristics that employers are seeking in graduates and the characteristics we need to become second nature with our students.”

The combined budget for the projects is set at $250,000. To fund the projects, the board approved utilizing two cash deposits that mature in February. Those two CDs will mature at almost $270,000. Kallhoff said any funds remaining would go toward school bus debt.

The school system is working with McKee and Associates Architecture and Interior Design on the projects.

Other items discussed by the board included:

• a superintendent’s report that included information on ACT preparation and results.

Kallhoff reported that the high school offers three periods for ACT preparation. He said the students in last year’s class had five students earn a grade of over 25 at this point in the school year. So far this year, that number is at 29 students. Also, last year at this time, one student had scored over 30, while the current senior class has four students who have earned a 30 or above.

The superintendent also spoke about the system’s preschool program, stating that the number of preschoolers served has more than doubled over the past five years.

Pre-registration for the preschool program is currently underway through March 15. A random drawing for students will be held on March 21.

Kallhoff also stated he will hold a series of public meetings in March as a way of providing an update to the community on the system’s five-year strategic plan. 

• approving a personnel report.

Transfers — William Jackson from custodian to lunchroom worker at Westside Elementary; and Mary Ellen McCrory from lunchroom CNP worker to custodian at WES.

Substitutes — Jenna Morgan and Veronica Long

Miscellaneous — approving FMLA leave for a USJ teacher as well as medical leave for a DHS employee.

• approving inventory disposal of items described as either broken or outdated technology.

• approving the monthly financial report.

• acknowledging January as School Board Month, with each school board member receiving a special gift from the schools.

The meeting went into executive session to discuss an employee.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, January 24 issue of the Demopolis Times.)