The kinks are getting worked out as Neosho R-5 school students and administrators, and parents, now have more than a week of the new school year under their belt.

Going into the school year knowing that previously normal traffic flows around the high school would be a challenge because of the construction of the FEMA storm shelter, Dan Decker, superintendent, said it took a few days to get the logistics figured out.

“But I think with students and staff working hard at it, traffic is moving much better than we thought,” Decker said.

He explained that release times were adjusted, and the addition of staff on scene during high traffic times has made a difference.

“We’ve got security officers down there, the Neosho Police Department when we need help down there, then we’ve had some of our administration and staff who have been out into the lots making sure that people are going the direction that they are supposed to go and not coming in so that the traffic flows smoothly, the buses are able to get in and get out,” he said. “Really it’s just been more of maybe delaying the release time a little bit, but also having more people on the ground, making sure that things are moving like they are supposed to.”

Decker indicated that complaints about the high school traffic situation have been few.

“I figured we would have quite a few more complaints as we moved ahead,” he said. “We really had very few complaints and most of them were things that we were able to address as we got in and saw the areas that needed improved on.”

On a related note, the school district held a joint news conference with the Neosho Transportation Development District (TDD) on Monday at the middle school to announce that the TDD would prioritize road and parking lot improvement projects planned to alleviate traffic congestion around that facility, with completion by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Decker said feedback from that announcement has been very positive.

“I’ve been to a couple of different group meetings and then just been out in the community, and people are anticipating that happening, and they are ready to see the road go through and the renovations out in that direction with hopes that we don’t have that issue anymore,” he said. “When we start school in the 15-16 school year, we’ll actually have those changes in place and traffic will flow smoothly.”

Decker pronounced the R-5 School District has returned to normal, if not better.

“Parents have done a nice job, students and teachers hit the ground running,” he said. “When I got into the buildings and into the classrooms, we’re ahead of where we have been in the past, because teachers and students have just jumped on board and moved ahead.”

Decker observed that previously the first few days of school were spent getting into routines and learning expectations, but this week has been different.

“What I’ve seen, even day one when I was in this year, we had staff and students and they were already in the learning process, so I give kudos to the staff and to the students, because it was like we’d just taken a break, we hadn’t had the whole summer, we hit the ground running and were able to get some things accomplished,” he said.

Another unique challenge to overcome this school year has been the schedule change of “early out Fridays.” Decker noted there is some controversy that goes with that, but it went smoothly on the first week, and will be worth the effort.

He said he has watched the teachers collaborating in the rooms on Friday afternoon as staff determines where particular students are in the learning process.

“Either give intervention to those students who aren’t where they need to be, or for the students who already have the knowledge, giving them enrichment taking them to the next step,” he said. “We’re beginning to see those kinds of conversations take place, so we just really feel like that through that time, as staff work together and collaborate we’ll be able to put a better product in front of the students and know where those students are, and address them at their level of education.”

Addressing concerns that students spend less time in the classroom by being dismissed at mid-day on Fridays, Decker asserted their learning will be more targeted.

“In the past with education it’s kind of been a one-size-fits-all, we’re going to cover this today, we’re going to cover this tomorrow,” he said. “You could get a little feel for where the students were in the learning process, but what we’re trying to do with this is at the end of each week we’re going to sit down and as teachers we’re going to collaborate and assess, ‘Here’s what we’re doing in out classroom, here’s where our kids are in that process. What do we need to do different?’

“We may have one fourth grade teacher whose kids are knocking it out of the park, and if our other fourth grade teachers can communicate to figure out what maybe that teacher is doing a little bit differently, maybe incorporate that into their classrooms – but basically we want to put the best product in front of our kids that we can.”

Decker boasted that most of the school’s athletic teams have started out the year successfully, which always makes the start of a school year a little smoother.

“We’re seeing some of that early on with our athletic teams and so it’s just been a really good start to the school year for us.”