The about 4,500 students returning to the Neosho R-5 School District will find some differences in the 2014-2015 school year.

Most noticeable immediately is ongoing construction of a FEMA shelter on the front of the high school campus. Dan Decker, superintendent, said that has created an entirely different schematic for moving traffic at the high school, and bus pickup and loading is being done at what was the senior parking lot, and parent pickup and drop off will go to the rear of the school, with traffic moving from the north to the south. He encourages patron input, and added that school officials will meet with police at the end of this week to ponder any needed changes to the protocol.

Decker hopes the high school project can be completed by spring break, and noted that construction of a FEMA shelter at South Elementary will cause Wayne Ave. to be closed just east of the school, and access will only be provided from Wornell and Johnson Drives. He said only parking will be affected later when work commences at the middle school. Decker noted that the district has applied to have FEMA shelters constructed at all remaining school facilities, and hopes to hear word about that by the end of this calendar year.

Curriculum wise, Decker stated, “We’re going to look at beginning to promote College & Career throughout the district, from kindergarten all the way through. To begin having a common language and doing it at a level the students are capable of understanding.

“The goal is to help them understand that as they go into college or go into a career or vocation, that is the option that they want. There are a lot of districts that are doing that in one facet or another, we’re going to look at doing that, trying to add that to what we are doing with character education and PBIS, trying to add that College & Career piece into it.”

Decker informed that this is the first year of the district’s partnership with Crowder College where students can work on attaining their associate’s degree as they graduate from high school.

“I know that within this school year, NABIFI (Neosho Area Business & Industrial Foundation, Inc.) and Crowder College and Neosho schools are going to work on becoming a Work Ready community, and the pieces that will bring,” he said.

“It’s going to be interesting to see the partnerships that develop there as we work together.”

Decker said the district is working to change the grading system from the traditional A, B, C, D or F to a standards-based system that helps illuminate each student’s particular strengths and weaknesses. A more complete explanation of that system can be found in the Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, edition of the Neosho Daily News.

In addition to the traffic challenges, Decker said the many trailers utilized as classrooms is also a big challenge.

“Just the challenge of making sure we do all we can to keep them safe, and the gamut that comes with that,” he said.

Unable to pass a bond issue this month for the second time to build a junior high school, he said another challenge is to figure out the best direction to go to be able to do the best for kids.

“The other challenges are,” Decker said, “is they continue to cut funding, so they’re asking us to do more with less. So, being able to overcome state withholdings and still provide everything we need to provide for our kids. I think we’re in good shape, but it’s still going to be a challenge.”

Another change in the district is moving former eighth grade principal Dr. Jennifer Cryer to the middle school, from where she will supervise both the seventh and the eighth grades. Decker said Keith Rook, who has been an assistant principal at the middle school, will work under Dr. Cryer, and both will rotate among the two facilities.

He said the pre-school program has been extended to Goodman, which will have a pre-school for the first time in that facility.