2022 Back to School

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BACK TO SCHOOL 2022

JULY 2022

SUMMER BLOCK PARTY

HOUSTON SCHOOL ON TRACK

UNITED WAY’S STUFF THE BUS

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o t k c Ba l o o h Sc 2022

MSBSD Superintendent looks forward to new school year By Katie Stavick Frontiersman.com

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t is mid-July, the middle of summer break, and for many students, the start of school is a distant thought. Meanwhile, Matanuska Susitna Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randi Trani is hard at work planning for the upcoming school year.

Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani. Frontiersman file photo

He took time to talk about the upcoming school year and what he is looking forward to as the August 16 school start day quickly approaches. CONTINUED ON PAGE 7

J U LY 2 0 2 2


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BACK TO SCHOOL 2022

inside: 3 Mat-Su College

JULY 2022

The Mat-Su welcomes students back to school

4 CCS Summer Block Party 5 Curriculum Updates 6 Houston High School Construction 8 Meal Program Ends 9 Mat-Su Boys and Girls Club 10 Advanced degree program

In just a couple of short weeks, thousands of students across the Mat-Su will flood the hallways of local schools and return to the classroom for the start of the 2022-2023 school year. In our annual back to school publication is our opportunity to take a look at the new year. Frontiersman reporter Katie Stavick recently sat down with Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr, Randy Trani, who discussed a number of important issues. He gave us his initial forecast for the school year. We are have articles about changes in the school district’s meal program and the introduction of PLC Mondays.

11 PLC Mondays

We also are featuring the district’s 4 C’s program and Palmer High School’s International Baccalaureate program, and have an update on the new school in Houston.

12 School Calendar

Other news items include, after school programs and Mat-Su College.

13 Stuff the Bus event

We are looking forward to covering students and staff, and their stories for another school year.

14 Youth 360 Thank you for reading. Jeremiah Bartz, Managing editor TAWNI DAVIS Regional Publisher

tawni.davis@frontiersman.com

PETRA ALBECKER

Regional Multimedia Marketing Consultant

Petra.Albecker@Frontiersman.com

JEREMIAH BARTZ

Managing Editor, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman editor@frontiersman.com

BEN BORG

Regional Multimedia Marketing Consultant

Ben.borg@frontiersman.com

Any child, ages 3-21, residing in the Mat-Su Borough is entitled to a free and appropriate public education.This may include special education services for students with identified needs. Types of needs that may qualify for special education services include: speech impairment, orthopedic impairment, vision impairment, developmental delays, emotional disturbance, cognitive delay, deafness, health impairment, traumatic brain injury & autism. In order to receive these special education services, it is necessary that these disabilities cause a child to have adverse educational impact. Special education services are provided at each of our public schools at no cost to parents, and include support in reading, writing, math, employment, self-help, and behavioral skills. In addition, if required, related services are provided in the areas of vision, hearing, motor skills, speech and language, and transportation. Other students may qualify to receive services under a Section 504 accommodation plan. Section 504 defines disabled as “any person who has a physical or mental disability which substantially limits a major life activity or has record of such a disability or is regarded as having such a disability.” If you suspect that your child has a disability and requires special education services and your child is enrolled in a MSBSD school, please contact your child’s teacher. If your child is between the ages of 3-5 years old and you are interested in having them screened visit www.matsuk12.us/childfind and fill out the appointment request form.


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BACK TO SCHOOL 2022

JULY 2022

Mat-Su College getting ready for full school year BY JACOB MANN FRONTIERSMAN.COM

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he Mat-Su College is preparing for more face to face classes and activities this coming semester. “I’d say I’m optimistic for this fall,” MatSu College director Talis Colberg said. “We’re just trying to get back to where we were before.”

With so many different financial opportunities available, Colberg said this is a great time to look into higher education. He said that their campus counselors are available all summer from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

According to Colberg, there will be several new staff members this fall, including three new professors, and possibly a fourth. “We’re happy about that.” Colberg said.

We have a considerable amount of scholarship money available. It’s a great time right now to get some one on one time with a counselor

” Colberg said that student clubs and the student government should be resuming to normal capacity this semester, which is much needed for the overall campus experience. “We’re excited about it,” Colberg said.

Back To School

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“We have a considerable amount of scholarship money available. It’s a great time right now to get some one on one time with a counselor ,” Colberg said. “Better now before the rush of people… Come on in now, get your future all lined up. It’s a good opportu-

nity.” For more information, visit matsu.alaska.edu. Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@ frontiersman.com


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JULY 2022

CCS hosting second annual Summer Block Party BY JACOB MANN FRONTIERSMAN.COM

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CS Early Learning is hosting its annual Summer Block Party July 30 from 12 to 3 p.m. at the Palmer location. This is a free family-friendly event that’s open to the public. “It’s just a celebration in our commu-

nity to bring families together and give them some age-appropriate activities to participate in and celebrate summer,” CCS Early Learning Executive Assistant Serena Lee said. This is the second year of this new annual gathering. Lee said they will have many of the same activities as last year including a bounce house, door

prizes, yard games, facility tours, hot dogs and hamburgers hot off the grill, and even the chance to meet Barney and BJ from the “Barney and Friends.”

out on the grass knowing that their kids were having fun. I think it was just nice to bring everyone together and that’s what I enjoyed the most.”

“I sent some time in the bounce houses. It was crazy fun,” Lee said with a laugh. “There were so many laughs and smiles. The parents were enjoying themselves as well. They were sitting

For more information about CCS Early Learning, visit ccsalaska.org. Contact Mat-Su Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman. com

SUMMER VACATION IS OVER

CCS Early Learning staff members pose for a photo in front of a bus. Courtesy photo

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JULY 2022

BACK TO SCHOOL 2022

New curriculum updates study hall concept Four Cs program aims to keep students on track for graduation and beyond BY MARK KELSEY FOR THE FRONTIERSMAN

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fter pandemic-induced disruptions of traditional learning, the Mat-Su Borough School District saw an opportunity to fine-tune how it serves and prepares students. School shutdowns at the beginning of the Covid pandemic were followed by a blended model of learning where some students went back to the classroom and others chose to stay home and do remote learning. That left gaps in the consistency and thoroughness of learning not previously seen. That’s how the Four Cs curriculum was born. Focusing on credit, college, community, and career readiness, the Four Cs concept borrows from, and expands on, the time-worn concept of a study hall. The newly introduced program is all about helping students keep up with unfinished learning while helping them transition to what comes next, depending on the grade level, said Justin Ainsworth, associate superintendent of secondary schools. “There’s nothing wrong with a really good study hall,” Ainsworth said. “Kids need that time and that safety net.” The structure provided, and the focus on extra help, elevates the new program from a traditional study hall. Ainsworth noted that the district’s middle schools have had a similar program for years, “advisory”. But the Four Cs expands on the mostly academic focus of advisory to include life skills. “We’re trying to be a little more prescriptive,” he said. “We want to have social and emotional learning, too.” Part of the success of the program, which provides students a place to take make-up tests and get extra help in classes where it’s needed, will be measured by academically. “We’re always trying to keep our percentage of low grades under 5 percent,” Ainsworth said. This goal came into sharp focus after the 2020-21 school year, when a large portion of the student population opted for remote learning. The percentage of Fs districtwide spiked to more than 9 percent that year, from 5.27 percent the year before. As with any first-year program, there has been a learning curve, he said. “We’ve learned a lot. Next year it’ll be better,” Ainsworth said. “Learning gaps aren’t going to go away next year.” At the high school level, Four Cs is only required of freshmen. Next year, it will also be required of sophomores. That’s because of the greater need that arises from transitioning from middle school to the more rigorous environment of the secondary level. The

class becomes an as-needed add-on after that. “The choke points for kids have been the sixth, ninth and 13th years of school,” Ainsworth said. That’s when they move from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school, and from high school to what comes next. The middle school program is more academics-oriented, with a general goal of avoiding having to repeat learning. “We want students to be ready for Algebra 1 and English 1 as freshman so they don’t have to take remedial courses,” he said. At the high school level, it’s more about giving freshman a safety net while preparing them for life after graduation. The hope is that freshmen learn the ropes and get organized enough so they can take electives as upperclassmen, or even do an internship or work a part-time job. This is where the “career readiness” piece of the Four Cs comes into play. The program helps students map out what they need to know for their chosen path, whether it be learning how to write a cover letter and resume, fill out a college application, talk to a military recruiter, or learn interview skills. “You’ve got to have a plan,” is the message, Ainsworth said. Mikey Evans, an educational technologist with the school district, agreed. He said the Four Cs program was intended to be a “structured advisory period” individually tailored to each student’s needs on any given day. It can be a time to recoup credits missed during the pandemic. Up-todate students can use the time to work on college applications or research professional licensing requirements and apprenticeships for after graduation. Doing homework is also encouraged. “It’s a time for students to drive the train,” Evans said. “Students should be able to leave it all behind,” and not have to be overburdened with school work at home. Properly administered, Four Cs should benefit students, teachers and parents, he said. “The schools that have implemented it in the way it was intended are seeing positive results,” Evans said. He singled out Colony Middle and Houston Jr./Sr. High schools for “doing amazing things” with the program. He echoed Ainsworth’s concerns about first-year wrinkles, but also agreed that the program will improve after the “reflection and adaptation” that will follow the end of this school year. “I’m confident it will only get better. Any program in its first year is going to struggle,” Evans said. “But Four Cs has the potential to be incredibly effective on many levels for all of our kids. I look forward to seeing what year two of Four Cs brings.

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JULY 2022

Construction is underway for the new Houston High School in Houston. Frontiersman file photo

Houston High School construction on track for mid-school year opening BY KATIE STAVICK FRONTIERSMAN.COM

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o look at the construction, with scaffolding and trucks, big equipment and shipping containers, it doesn’t look like much, but this is the new Houston High School taking shape.

The Borough has provided funding to the district for furnishings, funding, and equipment, as wells as funding to reset existing consolidated facilities. The Borough will continue to monitor for supply chain delays and any cost escalations that may arise.

The site once housed the Houston Middle School, but after the 7.1 earthquake in November, 2018, damage forced the middle school to combine with the Houston High School and form the Houston Junior-Senior High School.

The new building will not only include academic, administrative, and gymnasium wings, but also a technical career space in the 93,000 square feet building. Within the tech-career center there will be specific areas for instruction of construction trades, welding, culinary, and other vocational education. There will be 11 general classrooms with four resource classrooms and three science labs, as well as three Career and Technical Education labs

After much discussion and inspections, the building was ultimately condemned and subsequently demolished in December 2020. Construction of the new high school soon began.

Plans are being finalized to have a community update meeting, an idea that had been brought up during a joint MSBSD-Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting back in March.

Despite shipping delays and a longer winter than expected, construction crews are hard at work to get the school ready.

“We’re looking forward to the community meeting in order for parents and students to know what to expect,” said Borough Manager Mike Brown at the March meeting.

“Everything is still on schedule to open mid-year. It’s going to be great,” says Matanuska Susitna Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani.

In June 2021, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved the construction contract to build the new school. The Mat-Su Borough also received funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for construction.

The estimated delivery date for the new Houston High School is December 2022, with an anticipated opening of January 2023.

Construction is ongoing for the new Houston High School after the November 2018 earthquake forced the middle and high schools to combine.

The new building will not only include academic, administrative, and gymnasium wings, but also a technical career space in the 93,000 square feet building.

Artist rendering of the new Houston High School, expected to open January 2023. Courtesy graphic


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JULY 2022

MSBSD SUPERINTENDENT LOOKS FORWARD TO NEW SCHOOL YEAR, CONT. “I am looking forward to a more normal school year, like the last half of last year,” he says, talking about having a normal school year, free of pandemics and shutdowns. “I hope COVID levels stay down and schools can focus on achievement.” The first thing is to get in-person attendance back up to pre-pandemic levels. “Attendance has been rooted in COVID, and as we have started to put it behind us, there is improvement, but daily attendance across the board has been down,” Dr. Trani says. He is hopeful that students and families return to an in-person attendance normalcy without any more confusing shutdowns or distance learning. The hardest hit by COVID nationwide are the students who are getting ready to enter the 2nd grade. In a study released in January from Brown University, findings reflect that achievement tended to drop more between fall 2020 and 2021 than between fall 2019 and 2020, indicating that disruptions and prolonged school closures to learning have continued to negatively impact students well past the initial hits following the spring 2020 school closures. “They were in Kindergarten when COVID hit, a time when most kids are stepping into the classroom for tor the first time, and nationwide, those students were impacted the most,” adds Dr. Trani. Shoring up learning deficits from COVID is one of the challenges Dr. Trani

faces. Another is the implementation of a new Professional Development model known as “PLC Mondays.” PLC, short for Professional Learning Communities, is a set time each week for teachers and other educators meet to collaborate, discuss best practices, and work to improve teaching and learning. For the upcoming school year, select schools will implement PLC on Monday mornings before the start of school. “The high schools and middle schools will still have the same core time, there will be no loss in teaching time, and in fact some time will increase for the most vulnerable students,” says Dr. Trani, who believes that implementing PLC Mondays will improve the trajectory of student learning and performance. Dr. Trani is proud that overall, the school district performs really well, but worries when compared to districts across the United States. He is looking at ways to change that, starting with a focus on teaching to standards. By that, he means “What do we want kids to learn and know?” He references teacher clarity as a means to reach the deepest level of learning, in which teachers and students have a clear, shared understanding of the ultimate learning goal behind each lesson. “When teachers understand and people are invested in whatever they’re doing, they perform better,” said Dr. Trani. Understanding and investing in stu-

dent performance are top priorities, and Dr. Trani hopes that the hard work and collaboration will pay off, but also acknowledges that it must be reflected in common assessments. “How are we measuring their learning?” Dr. Trani would like to see learning be equal across the board, no matter where or how students are learning. “For example, if a student is taking Algebra 1, and receives an ‘A,’ that’s great, but there is no common assessment of what that means, what they learned. How do we know that they learned it?” While this is covered in the formative assessments students take throughout the coursework, Dr. Trani wants the Algebra 1 class a student takes at Palmer to be the same as the Algebra 1 taken at Wasilla, Houston, or Su Valley, or any other school across the district. “I want the learning to be exactly the same and measured the same so if a student transfers from 1 school to another, there isn’t anything lost.” While that could pose a daunting challenge for a district as large as the MatSu Borough school district, which is often compared in size to West Virginia, Dr. Trani is optimistic about the future of MSBSD.

“I’m super excited for the new school year. There are great things in store and a real opportunity to impact more students.” One great thing that students, parents, and teachers are indeed looking forward to is the opening of the new Houston High School, which was irreparably damaged during the 2018 earthquake, and demolished in 2020. Houston High was forced to combine into the Houston Junior-Senior High School while construction has gotten underway. “Everything is still on schedule to open mid-year. It’s going to be great.” The estimated delivery date for the new Houston High School is December 2022, with an anticipated opening of January 2023.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District National School Breakfast & Lunch Program

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is pleased to announce its policy of providing free and reduced price meals to eligible children under the National School Lunch Program, After School Snacks, School Breakfast Program. Each School and the District/Central Office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by an interested party.

001 Palmer High 002 Su Valley Jr/Sr High 003 Wasilla High 005 Colony High 006 Burchell High* 004 Houston Jr/ Sr* 010 Palmer Middle 011 Wasilla Middle 012 Colony Middle 013 Teeland Middle 030 Big Lake Elementary* 031 Glacier View School

032 Iditarod Elementary* 033 Sherrod Elementary 034 Swanson Elementary 035 Talkeetna Elementary 036 Trapper Creek Elementary* 038 Willow Elementary* 039 Snowshoe Elementary 041 Butte Elementary 042 Sutton Elementary* 043 Cottonwood Elementary 044 Tanaina Elementary* 045 Pioneer Peak Elementary

* CEP (Community Eligible Provision); no application is required at this site for this school year.

Meals meet nutritional standard established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The above sites will participate in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program (and some schools participate in the Supper and the After School Snack Program). Households with incomes less than or equal to the following effective guidelines are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. These guidelines are effective July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. If you have children who approved for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps, Temporary

046 Larson Elementary 047 Finger Lake Elem 048 Goosebay Elementary 049 Beryozova 050 Shaw Elementary 051 Meadow Lake Elementary* 053 Machetanz Elementary 054 Dena’ina Elementary* 071 Valley Pathways* 073 Career Tech High 077 Mat-Su Day School 079 Mat-Su Middle College 080 Redington Sr. Jr/Sr High*

Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Native Family Assistance Program (NFAP), they are automatically able to receive free meals by filling an application that includes their assistance number from one of those programs. Students who are migrant, homeless, or runaways are automatically eligible and do not need to fill out an application. Foster children receive free meals regardless of the income of the household with which they reside. Note: Medicaid and Denali Kid Care case numbers do not qualify for eligibility. For more information or to get an application form for free or reduced-price school meals, contact:

Reduced Price Meals – 185% of Federal Poverty Guidelines Household Annual Monthly Size 1 31,432 2,620 2 42,347 3,529 3 53,262 4,439 4 64,177 5,349 5 75,092 6,258 6 86,007 7,168 7 96,922 8,077 8 107,837 8,987

Twice Per Month

Every Two Weeks

1,310 1,765 2,220 2,675 3,129 3,584 4,039 4,494

1,209 1,629 2,049 2,469 2,889 3,308 3,728 4,148 420

For each additional family member add: 10,915 910 455

Diane Russo; Nutrition Services Department 690 E Cope Industrial Way, Palmer, AK 99645 Phone: (907) 861-5100 Applications cannot be approved unless they contain complete information. Information provided on an application may be verified at any time. Households may apply for school meal benefits at any time during the school year if circumstances change. Children whose parents or guardians become unemployed may be eligible for school meal benefits based on their household income during the period of unemployment. A household whose application for school meal

Applications can be completed online at: www.schoolcafe.com

Free Meals – 130 % of Federal Poverty Guidelines Annual

Monthly

Twice Per Month

Every Two Weeks

Weekly

605 815 1,025 1,235 1,445 1,654 1,864 2,074

22,087 29,757 37,427 45,097 52,767 60,437 68,107 75,777

1,841 2,480 3,119 3,759 4,398 5,037 5,676 6,315

921 1,240 1,560 1,880 2,199 2,519 2,838 3,158

850 1,145 1,440 1,735 2,030 2,325 2,620 2,915

425 573 720 868 1,015 1,163 1,310 1,458

210

7,670

640

320

295

148

Weekly

benefits is denied will be provided an opportunity to appeal the decision. Families may reapply as many times as needed during the school year if income or family size should change. In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


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JULY 2022

Free meal program ends at MSBSD schools no longer available for the 2022 – 2023 school year,” says Katherine Gardner, Mat-Su school district associate superintendent who oversees its food service operations.

BY KATIE STAVICK FRONTIERSMAN.COM

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s the COVID pandemic restrictions and subsequent lockdowns have eased, many federal assistance programs are also coming to an end. One of the most impactful may be the free school meal programs.

Reverting back to pre-pandemic policies means that families will once again have to apply for free and reduced cost meals with their child’s schools, a process that must be done every school year.

During the pandemic, Congress passed a program granting waivers that would allow students to eat school meals for free, no matter the family income. Millions of students have been fed for two years thanks to these waivers, offering families hit by the pandemic some relief as their children were going to be fed. Now that program is ending as Congress did not renew the program. That means that roughly half the schools across Alaska that participate in the program will lose access when students return this fall. Families that took advantage of the free meals program will need to apply for free or reduced price meals based on income level, or pay for them. Families could be negatively impacted by this, especially as inflation rises, fuel prices fluctuate, and leaving many families struggling to make ends meet. Over the 2019 federal fiscal year, the last year with data not impacted by the pandemic, 74.2 percent of all meals served through the program were free- or reduced-priced, according to the USDA. In response, the Matanuska-Susitna

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Parents may file an application for free and reduced meals by logging onto the MSBSD website. Gardner also recommends that parents create an account in the “SchoolCafe.” “We encourage all families when they complete their school registration to create a ‘SchoolCafe’ account, if they don’t already have one, and complete the free and reduced meal application,” says Gardner.

Mat-Su families will need to file for free/reduced meal programs this school year. Photo Courtesy Wiki Commons

Borough School District is keeping the costs of meals at the same rates as before the pandemic. For elementary schools, breakfast costs about $2.25 and lunch $3.75. At the middle and high schools, breakfast costs $2.75 and lunch $4.75 – the same as pre-pandemic rates. “Essentially, we are reverting back to

the procedures that were in place prior to COVID. The District was able to offer free meals to all students the last two years due to a series of waivers that were granted at the Federal Level. We appreciated that opportunity and the increased participation in school meal service that occurred during this time, unfortunately the waivers allowing for free meals for all students are

She says that students who qualify for free and reduced meals will continue to have access to free meals, and that the applications are also used to help schools gain access to other supports and funding beyond meal service. There are additional details on the District’s website under Nutrition Services at matsuk12.us If parents need support in completing an application or have questions about allergies, meal prices or anything else food service related, they may contact the Food Services Operations office at (907) 861-5100.

The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, along with local businesses, sponsor a Newspapers in Education (NIE) Program at many of our local schools. This kind of strong community partnership enhances the education experience and provides community-wide benefit by helping to develop literate, civic-minded individuals.

Contributors to the NIE program will receive periodic printed acknowledgement in the newspaper throughout the school year. Depending on the level of sponsorship, additional benefits are also available for the sponsoring organization. Platinum Level Sponsorship $2500: Includes a monthly half-page ad acknowledging platinum level contribution, banner ad on the school page of the print edition as well as a rotating banner ad on frontiersman.com acknowledging their support of the NIE program. PLUS two print subscriptions. Gold Level Sponsorship $1,000: Includes a monthly quarter-page ad acknowledging gold level contribution, banner ad on the school page of the print edition as well as a rotating banner ad on frontiersman.com acknowledging their support of the NIE program. Silver Level Sponsorship $500: Includes a banner ad on the school page of the print edition as well as a rotating banner ad on frontiersman.com acknowledging their support of the NIE program. Bronze Level Sponsorship $300: Company name will be listed on the school page acknowledging sponsorship level.

All donations of any size are welcome! You can help keep newspapers in our schools! Mail your donations to: Frontiersman 5751 E. Mayflower Ct. Wasilla, Alaska 99654

Please consider becoming a sponsor for this program! Contact our office for more information. (907)352-2251


JULY 2022

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BACK TO SCHOOL 2022

The Mat-Su Boys and Girls Club is busily preparing for the coming school year, the busiest time of year for every chapter of the national after school program. Courtesy photo

Mat-Su Boys and Girls Club preparing for busy school year BY JACOB MANN FRONTIERSMAN.COM

T

he Mat-Su Boys and Girls Club is busily preparing for the coming school year, the busiest time of year for every chapter of the national after school program. Mat-Su Boys and Girls Club manager Howie Marks said their goal is to serve as many local families as they can as

they return to a “semi-normal” schedule. According to Marks, they offer a competitive childcare rate of $50 per week which pales in comparison to other daycare centers across the community. He said they currently have about 350 members which will jump to about 500 by January.

Marks said. “Our memberships are probably the only thing that hasn’t gone up with inflation… We welcome you here. We welcome your kids here,”

For more information, call 907-357-2582. Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

“I think we will be quite a bit busier,”

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Mat-Su Boys and Girls Club manager Howie Marks said their goal is to serve as many local families as they can as they return to a “semi-normal” schedule. Courtesy photo

Located: 4401 E Palmer-Wasillia Wasilla, AK 99654

eshade@kniktribe.org

REGISTER TODAY!


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JULY 2022

Getting a head start Advanced degree program gives PHS students a leg up in college BY MARK KELSEY

For the Frontiersman

I

f scholarships are the measure, academics offer far more opportunity to students than athletics. To that end, Palmer High School has been quietly adding to local students’ scholarship earnings for two decades with its International Baccalaureate diploma program. The IB diploma is earned through an internationally recognized academic program similar to advanced placement classes, where college-bound students can earn college credit for advanced learning in a variety of subjects. Palmer High is the only school in the Mat-Su Borough School District to offer an IB diploma, which can be worth a year or more of college credits. The program focuses on six academic disciplines: Language and literature; Language acquisition; Individuals and societies; Experimental sciences; Mathematics; and The arts. Individual class subjects include modern novel, French and Spanish, history, philosophy, biology and physics.

Kaitlyn Theonnes, Kiani Kalander, Katie Zielger, Jocelyn Zweifel and Julia Safarik pose for a photo during Palmer High School’s class of 2019 graduation ceremony. All five graduated as part of Palmer High’s International Baccalaureate program. Frontiersman file photo

It’s good for kids to get exposed to a higher rigor of student expectations...

learn. Basically, it’s teaching students how to learn,” he said. “Critical thinking is a big component to the program. You see it when you go into the classroom. There is an exercise of critical thinking that’s going on.”

It’s not just about the classroom, though. The program also emphasizes development of skills like time management, working cooperatively and problem-solving that are needed to be successful in life.

It’s a two-year program for juniors and seniors, and other than prerequisite classes for a few I.B. courses, there are no requirements to participate in an I.B. class, other than IB history, which all juniors now take as a regular curriculum course, although there is no obligation to take the IB exam, which could result in college credit. Seventh-year PHS Principal Paul Reid is a big believer in the program, which has seen 62 diplomas awarded since 2002. He said the results of merging the history classes into just the IB version have been good. “It’s good for kids to get exposed to a higher rigor of student expectations,” he said during the 2021-22 school year. As a longtime coach in the school district, he said he has been approached about athletic scholarships by many parents of players over the years. But non-athletic scholarships are much easier to come by. “There’s so much more opportunity in academics,” he said. The IB program brings that opportunity to the forefront. It differs from advanced placement classes in its more wholistic approach to learning, Reid said. “IB focuses on how we learn, why we

Palmer High builds on that wholistic approach to learning with its wholistic embrace of the IB program. There are 18 IB-trained teachers on the PHS faculty. Makenzie Moore has seen the program from both sides. She teaches social studies and IB history at PHS, where she previously graduated from the school’s IB program. “Being an IB diploma student is hard, but meaningful, work. As a student, it was a transformative experience that helped prepare me, and my classmates, for college-level studies,” Moore said during the last school year. “It was exciting to be able to come back to Palmer High School last year and participate in a new way in a program that had such a profound impact on my academic career. I’ve especially enjoyed getting to work with students as they challenge themselves intellectually and academically to keep striving toward improvement, creating habits that will help them become lifelong learners.” Moore, a social studies teacher, is among the 18 IB-trained faculty who are spread over every department at PHS. They all received the entire program training, too, Reid said, not just

Palmer High School student Emily Mack shows her art journal which chronicles her creative process during Palmer High’s IB Art Show in 2019. Frontiersman file photo

subject-specific training. That kind of focus has helped the program grow in the six years since Reid has been principal. “There was a time when an IB bio class would have six kids in it,” Reid said. “There are 34 in IB bio now.” Changing the perception of the program as difficult and all-consuming was key to that. “We purposefully have tried to change the narrative about what the program provides students,” Reid said. “Students used to think that you couldn’t have a life and be an IB student. We want our students to be able to be in music and sports, too.” The success feeds off itself, he said.

“Kids are surrounded by others who want to learn. And it’s also more enjoyable for teachers to have eager learners in front of them,” Reid said. And those scholarships just keep coming, with the IB diploma earners accounting for 80 percent of all scholarships awarded to PHS students in 2020. Additionally, Reid said, in the last three years Palmer High students have earned full-ride scholarships to Notre Dame and the Air Force Academy, and last year the school had its first graduate accepted to Harvard. “The IB program breaks down socioeconomic barriers for students who may not have the means to attend college, and brings opportunities to any student willing to put in the work,” he said.


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JULY 2022

11

“We want to change the trajectory of our students” Dr. Trani discusses PLC Mondays BY KATIE STAVICK FRONTIERSMAN.COM

A

s a new school year approaches, parents, students, and teachers in select schools will notice a change in the schedule as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is gearing up to roll out a new alternative start time known as “PLC Mondays.” Teaching has become more complex over the past 30 years, with more demands placed on teachers, with demands for increased student performance, larger classrooms, and more demand for accountability. This requires educators to continually gain and reinforce the knowledge and skills in their teaching toolbox. With that in mind, MSBSD Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani is introducing PLC Mondays to select schools this upcoming school year. “We are a good district, a great district, in the state, but we are lower as a state in performing in reading and math,” said Dr. Trani, acknowledging that many parents and community members want to see student knowledge and performance increase. The idea of a PLC-Professional Learning Communities-is a collaborative group of educators who share ideas to enhance their teaching practice and create a learning environment where all students can reach their fullest potential. Most PLCs operate within a school building or across a district and can be organized by grade level, content area or an entire teaching staff. Currently, the district plans several Teacher Professional Days throughout the school year and schools typically close for the day. With PLC Mondays, the plan is to allow instructional staff the time to examine student work, develop common assessment and collaborate on instructional strategies as a way to improve academic achievement and prepare students to be more ready to enter into a career, vocational training, or college. PLCs are not new; many schools and school districts in the lower 48 have implemented such programs as a means to share best practices, brainstorm, and enhance teacher reflection as to what is and is not working in the classroom. “We want to change the trajectory of our students, and that means changing the old schedule. If we want to change, then we need to change how we really teach someone,” says Dr. Trani. He believes that regularly schedule meetings that the PLC model offers will be better for teachers and students, rather than having 1 professional development day every quarter and trying to revisit that information later down the road. “The idea is that this will become routine versus having random Professional Days and having to take the day off,” says Dr. Trani. He is hopeful that PLC Mondays will strengthen the team of

teachers and directly impact teaching and learning. The PLC Mondays schedule will be implemented during Monday mornings, with Middle Schools and High Schools starting at 8:45 am and releasing at 2:15 pm. Elementary Schools will start at 10:15 am and release at 3:45 pm.

We want to change the trajectory of our students, and that means changing the old schedule. If we want to change, then we need to change how we really teach someone...

” “With the High Schools and Middle Schools, there won’t be a loss in teaching time, and in fact there will be an increase in teaching time for the most vulnerable,” Dr. Trani explains, and acknowledges a 45 minute change for the elementary students. When asked why a late start versus an early release day, it was determined the late start days would have fewer scheduling conflicts with extracurricular, co-curricular and athletic activities. Since so many of students are involved in after-school activities such as sports, music, or clubs, and since many teachers are either the coach or sponsors of these activities, many of the teachers would not be available for the PLC meetings. “We reached out to daycares and community groups, and let them know about the change so they can plan and be accommodating the time change,

and they have been supportive of the change,” says Jillian Morrissey, Chief Communications Officer for MSBSD. “The change was partly driven by parents and the community who wanted a bigger return on their investments,” said Dr. Trani about the catalyst for implementing PLC Mondays. “MSBSD is a good place for students

to learn, one of the best in the state but, we are striving to make it even better! We want to make our district one of the standout districts in the nation.” For a list of schools involved in PLC Mondays, and for more information about PLC Mondays, visit matsuk12. us/plcmondays


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JULY 2022

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District 2022-2023 CALENDAR SchoolSCHOOL Calendar 2022-2023 S

M

T

W

T

F

S

JULY

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

7 14 21 28

1 8 WD 22 29

AUGUST 2 3 4 5 6 9 WD PD PD 13 SO 17 18 19 20 PK/K 24 25 26 27 30 31

SEPTEMBER PD 4 H 6 7 8 11 12 13 14 15 18 19 20 21 22 25 26 27 28 29

PD 3 9 10 16 17 23 24 30

OCTOBER

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Q1 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 PC NOVEMBER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 PD 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 H H 26 27 28 29 30

DECEMBER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Q2 WD 24 25 H V V V V 31

August 10 11-12 15 16 23

Work Day for Teachers (WD)* Professional Development Days (PD)* Work Day for Teachers (WD)* School Opens for 1-12 (SO) First Day for Preschool/Kindergarten

September 1-2 Professional Development Days (PD)* 5 Labor Day Holiday (H)* October 14 Quarter 1 Ends (41 Days) 31 Parent Conference Day (PC)* November 11 Professional Development Day (PD)* 24-25 Thanksgiving Holiday (H)* December 22 Quarter 2 Ends (44 Days) 23 Work Day for Teachers (WD)* 26 Christmas Holiday (H)* 27-30 Winter Vacation (V)* January 2 New Years Day (H)* 3-6 Winter Vacation (V)* 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Day (H)* February 24 Parent Conference Day (PC)* March 9 Quarter 3 Ends (41 Days) 10 Work Day for Teachers (WD)* 13-17 Spring Vacation (V)* April 28

Professional Development Day (PD)*

May 19 22

School Closes/Quarter 4 Ends (44 Days) Work Day for Teachers (WD)*

* Indicates no school for students

S

M

T

W

T

F

S

JANUARY 1 H V V V V 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 H 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

FEBRUARY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 PC 25 26 27 28

MARCH 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Q3 WD 11 12 V V V V V 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

APRIL

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 PD 29 30

7 14 21 28

1 8 15 WD H

2 9 16 23 30

MAY 3 10 17 24 31

JUNE

4 5 6 11 12 13 18 SC 20 25 26 27

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


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13

United Way’s annual Stuff the Bus event set for Aug. 10 BY JACOB MANN FRONTIERSMAN.COM

U

nited Way of Mat-Su is holding the annual Stuff the Bus back to school supply event at the Menard Sports Center Aug. 10.

Stuff the Bus is returning to an indoor event with the help of community partners. United Way distributed over 800 fun backpacks with needed school supplies, gently-used back-to-school outfits and footwear, and resources to Mat-Su families in 2021. Supplies include backpacks and other important student materials. This event is open to all K-12 Mat-Su students. According to United Way outreach coordinator Michele Harmeling, it’s open to any caregiver with permission from the student’s family. There will be several vendor tables offering information about community resources throughout the event. Harmeling said it will be a particularly busy year. She said this is a nationally celebrated campaign. “Be prepared for a little bit of a line,” Harmeling said. “It’s just one of our signature community events that we have been building on and participating in for a really long time. We will do it every year. We will find a way.”

For more information, visit unitedwaymatsu.org.

United Way of Mat-Su is holding the annual Stuff the Bus back to school supply event at the Menard Sports Center Aug. 10. Frontiersman file photo

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

Volunteers accept donations. Frontiersman file photo

THE DOCTORS ARE IN! Open Monday - Saturday

A WALK-IN CLINIC “Where Speed Doesn’t Compromise Quality“ General Family Medicine and Minor Emergencies Illnesses • Pediatrics • X-Ray • Expanded Lab Burns • Sprains • Wounds • Well Care Sport & Employment Physicals Workers’ Comp. • Fractures

Louis M. Packer, MD American Board of Ambulatory Medicine American Board of Anesthesiology

$185 Flat Fee For A Routine Visit

State Covid-19 testing, Private travel testing, Vaccination and Monoclonal Antibody Infusion Center 185 EAST PARKS HWY • WASILLA (1 BLOCK NORTH OF O’REILLY’S)

FAX 373-4201

373-4200 www.UrgentCareAlaska.com

Stuff the Bus is returning to an indoor event with the help of community partners. United Way distributed over 800 fun backpacks with needed school supplies, gentlyused back-to-school outfits and footwear, and resources to Mat-Su families in 2021. Frontiersman file photo


14

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JULY 2022

Youth 360 ready for back to school BY JACOB MANN FRONTIERSMAN.COM

Y

outh 360 is a summer and afterschool program that currently serves Wasilla and Houston middle and high school students. As the school year approaches, so does the influx of student participation, according to Youth 360 Director Tyler Healy. He said they stay fairly busy during the summer, but the school year is really the busiest time of year for this youth oriented organization run by United Way Mat-Su.

After school activities range from sports and cooking to creative expression and teamwork activities.

Youth 360 is a summer and afterschool program that currently serves Wasilla and Houston middle and high school students. Courtesy photo

“We’re looking forward to this coming school year,” Healy said. After school activities range from sports and cooking to creative expression and teamwork activities. Clubs are open every school day from 2:15 to 6:00 p.m. Free transportation and food is included with all onsite programs. According to Healy, Youth 360 currently serves an average of 100 to 150 students per month. He said this includes field trips and other activities. While Youth 360 is currently based in Houston and Wasilla, the overall goal is to expand to all areas across the Mat-Su Borough School District, according to Healy. He said that Palmer and Redington are next on the list, and they hope to add another school within the next year. “That’s exciting for us to think about,” Healy said. Youth 360 offers a stipend program so local families can receive financial assistance while finding activities for their children. For more information, visit unitedwaymatsu.org/united-way/youth360. After school activities range from sports and cooking to creative expression and teamwork activities. Clubs are open every school day from 2:15 to 6:00 p.m. Free transportation and food is included with all onsite programs. Courtesy photo

THE DOCTORS ARE IN! Open Monday - Saturday

A WALK-IN CLINIC “Where Speed Doesn’t Compromise Quality“ General Family Medicine and Minor Emergencies Illnesses • Pediatrics • X-Ray • Expanded Lab Burns • Sprains • Wounds • Well Care Sport & Employment Physicals Workers’ Comp. • Fractures

Louis M. Packer, MD American Board of Ambulatory Medicine American Board of Anesthesiology

Traditional aditional Japanese Kar Karate for ages 7-99 Vendors for Matsu Central School, IDEA, and Denali Peak

$185 Flat Fee For A Routine Visit

State Covid-19 testing, Private travel testing, Vaccination and Monoclonal Antibody Infusion Center 185 EAST PARKS HWY • WASILLA (1 BLOCK NORTH OF O’REILLY’S)

61 North Karate Academy

FAX 373-4201

373-4200 www.UrgentCareAlaska.com

907-315-9563

619 S Knik Goose Bay Rd, Suite C Wasilla City Center

61northkarateacademy.com


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Visit www.matsuk12.us Online Registration School Supply Lists Calendars School Board Info Free & Reduced Lunch Application Pupil Transportation tools

JULY 2022

School starts for Grades 1-12 on Tuesday, August 16 Kindergarten & Pre-K first day is Tuesday, August 23

Download the App Matanuska-Susitna Borough SD

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School Board Ryan Ponder President District 5

Jim Hart Vice President District 2

Dwight Probasco Clerk District 6

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Ole Larson Member District 3

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