Carson City School District’s two middle schools are working on increasing student and parent engagement in efforts to mitigate natural age levels of apathy and pronounced shifts that have come after the pandemic.
Carson Middle School Principal Amy Robinson told the Board of Trustees March 28 during a “State of the Middle Schools” report that one of CMS’ biggest challenges this year has been maintaining parent participation at school activities, making sure they’re checking their ParentSquare platform for students’ academic progress and communications from principals or teachers and staying hands-on at home.
The schools do not have a means of requiring students to attend school before or after traditional hours or during the summer for credit recovery, and elective options are limited, Robinson and Eagle Valley Middle School Principal Lee Conley said.
They also said student behavior, some of which might be attributed to social influences outside of school, is monitored and staff seeks to recognize students who make right decisions. Children can earn points from custodians, cooks and teachers who observe them picking up orange peels from the floor or opening doors for others, for example.
“We’re trying to train kids to get off social media,” Robinson said. “We show them statistics of how unhealthy it is. You think we’re making progress, and 90% of the problems stem from 10% of the people.”
Conley agreed and said he would like to see more than 90% of parents and families get involved in the schools.
“We don’t want to offend them and overcommunicate without burdening them, but I think a lot of our families are in need,” Conley said. “I see our kids’ issues mirroring society. It’s got to be a community issue.”
Robinson said middle school is that key transitional period for students who are adapting to changes in their biology and academics, and COVID-19 has made a difference in the past few years.
“They go from elementary school where it’s 25 kids, then they hit middle school where they go to six classes and it’s Infinite Campus,” Robinson said. “We’re inviting families to learn Google Classroom … and (families) don’t know how to get involved.”
Trustee Molly Walt asked whether having a truancy officer would make any impact in the middle schools to make sure students are in school on time and taking their classes seriously.
Conley said EVMS currently is challenged to fill some open positions, although he wasn’t shy about admitting he has “stolen good teachers” from Washoe, Douglas and Lyon counties.
“We are getting a better crop of teachers coming in,” he said. “While we’re still hurting in math and science, we are at least having a better opportunity to interview better candidates than before when we couldn’t get candidates.”
Robinson said CMS currently has a substitute shortage with three longterm substitutes on her campus, and teachers are covering classes during their prep periods.
Conley said the schools also continue to seek input from families about their school improvement plans, incoming sixth grade welcome night and eighth grade promotion, the latter of which remains important to students.
“These kids truly love going through the promotional ceremony,” he told board members, adding it’s difficult to tell any student he has to retain they won’t participate with their class but it happens.
Trustee Mike Walker said he respected Robinson and Conley for what they do at the middle school level.
“It’s a perfect storm, and it’s a hard job,” Walker said.