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School Board approves gifted and early childhood program evaluations

The Jackson R-2 School Board met on Jan. 8 in the Ignite Center at the High School. The center is part of the J-Wing addition and is used for professional development. In the past 12 years, this was the first time the meeting had been anywhere but the Board Office.

At the meeting, the Board was recognized due to the upcoming Missouri School Boards Appreciation Week. Superintendent Dr. John Link said this is “by far the best school board I’ve ever been around.” He said that the Board members get along and enjoy each other even when they disagree.

During the meeting, the Board members heard presentations on the gifted (ALERT) program and early childhood program in the District. They approved evaluations of both programs.

The Advanced Learning and Enrichment using Research and Technology (ALERT) program provides a unique learning environment for academically gifted students. The program is not designed as an honor or reward program, but is designed to meet the social and cognitive needs of the District’s gifted students. The program serves 156 students in first through eighth grade.

At the elementary schools, Lauren Skelton has taught first and second graders about the philosophy of time and engineered bird feeders that support Missouri bird habitats. This semester, first and second graders in ALERT will learn about volcanoes. Third and fourth graders have learned about pirates while reading Treasure Island. They have also created their own Google sites to showcase their work.

The elementary program has historically always been strong, but as students moved to the middle school and took other electives, enrollment started to drop. Changes have been made to make the middle school program act more like a core class and be extended into a yearlong program.

Fifth graders have used the coding program, Scratch, and have learned about the stock market. The students compete in teams to see who can research, buy and sell stocks to raise the most money. Their instructor, Staci Beussink, said students have really gotten into it and have stayed up with the news of the stock market outside of class.

In the first semester, sixth grade students in the ALERT program have had to research potential jobs they might want to have in the future and places they might want to live. Students researched different colleges they could go to, different cars they could buy, and different apartments they could afford. They made one-month budgets and drew fate cards that could make life easier or harder. Next semester, sixth graders will create their own inventions and learn how to run their own business.

At the junior high, the ALERT class is now a semester class with the option to take it all year. David Brummel’s class of seventh and eighth grade students does a series of activities that promote creativity, critical thinking and community. The class went to the City Museum in St. Louis, and will spend second semester working on battle bots and inventions.

The ALERT program is currently working with the high school to see if there is any way to create a gifted community there that is not tied to a class.

Early childhood teachers presented on how the district works to provide developmentally appropriate preschool programs for children before they enter Kindergarten.

296 students are served in Early Childhood Special Education, Title I Preschool and the Little Indians integrated preschool program. An additional 45 children receive speech-only services.

The early childhood program also includes the Parents as Teachers program, which made 1,447 home visit contacts during the 2017-18 school year.

The Creative Curriculum for Preschool has been used to develop the classroom and lessons to focus on. The early childhood curriculum focuses on literacy, cognitive development, mathematics, science, fine motor skills, gross motor skills and social emotional health.

The board also set the summer school dates for 2019. Summer school will run from June 4 through June 25.

The construction at West Lane is moving along, with the roof almost finished on the new gymnasium. The gym should be completed in March or April, with most of the other construction at West Lane finished this summer.

The next school board meeting on Feb. 12 will also be held at the Ignite Center at Jackson High School. The 2019-20 school calendar will be updated at that meeting.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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