Today is the first day of school in St. Joseph County and public school districts across the state.
Locally, students in Colon Community Schools will see fully refurbished elementary and jr./sr. high buildings after a $15 million, district-wide building and technology upgrade was completed over the summer.
In Three Rivers, new principals at Park and Norton elementary schools are in place. Also, the district this year is introducing a 71-minute early dismissal every Monday so teachers may focus on Professional Learning Communities.
Sturgis Public Schools, the largest district in the county, will delay its start by an hour every Thursday for the same purpose. The district this year also has issued iPads to every high school student to help transform their academics, Superintendent Tom Langdon said.
Meanwhile, teacher contracts are settled in only four districts in the county: Sturgis, Three Rivers, Constantine and White Pigeon.
Burr Oak’s Terry Conklin returns as the dean of St. Joseph County’s superintendents, as he is starting his 20th year in that position in Burr Oak.
In addition, Rob Kuhlman is beginning his third year as the only two-district superintendent in Southwest Michigan. He was hired in May 2010 to oversee Mendon and Centreville school districts.
The Sturgis Public Schools Board of Education recently settled contracts with three work groups.
Superintendent Tom Langdon said unions representing food-service workers, teachers, and employees in the custodian, maintenance and transportation field all agreed to a contract through the 2012-13 school year.
Teachers will not be awarded a pay increase, though salary-step increases will remain in place.
Employees in the custodial pool agreed to a reduction in sick days, from 10 to five while also agreeing to no payout for sick days upon retirement.
Food-service workers also agreed to no pay raise, but its members will also be given salary-step increases will stay intact.
All three groups agreed to further concessions.
St. Joseph County Clerk Pattie Bender is advising the public that petitions for candidates to area school boards of education, Glen Oaks Community College Board of Trustees and village councils are due by 4 p.m. Aug. 14.
All positions will be elected in the Nov. 6 general election.
Bender said candidates wishing to run for school board in Burr Oak, Centreville, Colon, Constantine, Mendon, Nottawa and White Pigeon and all village council candidates need to file a minimum of six signatures and a maximum of 20.
Board candidates for Sturgis, Three Rivers and Glen Oaks need a minimum of 40 signatures and a maximum of 100 signatures.
All petitions are to be filed in the county clerk’s office.
The first St. Joseph County school district to begin its summer break is in Colon, where its students have a noon dismissal today, wrapping up their 2011-12 academic year.
Other last days of school in St. Joseph County are June 1 for Constantine; June 6 for Burr Oak; June 7 for Three Rivers and White Pigeon; June 8 for Centreville and Mendon; and June 14 for Sturgis.
Meanwhile, graduation takes place this evening for students at Centreville High School.
Sturgis High School is preparing its students – and their parents – for a technology advance in the 2012-13 academic year, when all high school students will be provided an iPad to use for the school year.
Sessions staged Tuesday and Wednesday this week collectively drew more than 100 parents, who were given more information about security features that will be built into the iPads, programs that will be included to benefit students and their academics, and a general overview of the many features offered by the notebook device.
District officials also discussed policies about the iPads and their use, focusing on details about if a device is broken, misplaced or stolen.
The district is spending more than $600,000 to purchase the iPads for high school students in all grades. Sturgis Bank and Trust is providing more than $30,000 in funding to purchase protective covers for the iPads.
The first of nine weekends for motorcycle-safety training takes place Friday at Sturgis High School.
Offered through Glen Oaks Community College and overseen by state-certified trainer Robin Bordner, the program is partially funded by the Michigan Department of State.
Cost per participant is $25 and classes are limited to 12 students per session. Though the program is offered nine different weekends, only one, three-day weekend of training is required to secure the certification.
Bordner said classroom work takes place Fridays, with driving and testing on Saturdays and Sundays.
In addition, three one-day, returning-rider classes are offered June 2, 30 and July 7.
More information is available at 506-5111.