Southeast Valley schools mark first day

GOWRIE – Southeast Valley middle and high schools celebrated their first day of classes Tuesday.

Under the whole grade and activities sharing agreements signed by Prairie Valley and Southeast Webster Grand community school districts in January, Gowrie will host the districts’ high school students and Burnside its middle school students under the joint silver, teal and black Jaguars banner.

Jim Henrich, Southeast Valley High School principal, said he looked forward to the day. Henrich began the position in July.

“I’m very excited. There’s lots of opportunities for kids,” Henrich said. “There’s things to work, through, but it’s very exciting.”

The day was filled with special activities, Henrich said.

“We’re going to have class meetings, and in the afternoon we’ll have some get-to-know-you activities with a barbecue in the park,” he said.

Lois Irwin, Prairie Valley superintendent, said she, too, was excited about the new opportunities afforded by the sharing agreements.

“The vast majority of people see advantages to whole grade sharing and have come together,” Irwin said. “Yesterday, we had a teachers meeting together. All of the teachers from the four buildings met in the gym and we did some get-acquainted activities and talked about what makes a student go ‘wow’ when they leave your classroom.”

Through the agreement, both schools are now able to offer their students more classes.

“We have an entire new business department,” Irwin said. “When we were separate, Gowrie had no business classes at all. Now, we will have a full range of business classes, including what’s called multi-occupation careers, so students will be doing some work experiences.”

There will also be 15 new college-level courses available.

“We’ve added college-level classes in most areas. Social studies, math, family and consumer sciences, and information technology,” Irwin said.

The two districts will also be further pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas under the STEM initiative.

“At the elementary, its A World in Motion. At the middle school, its Project Gateway, the precursor to Project Lead the Way. And at the high school, it’s CASE. Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education,” Irwin said.

Irwin said it was a pleasure to see their first day as Southeast Valley realized after spending last year participating in whole-grade sharing discussions.

“It’s overwhelming. The experience is unbelievable,” she said. “It’s like building a new house. You think about it. You make all your plans. You become frustrated with some of the dynamics of it, and making decisions, complications. And then finally, the house is built and it’s there. It’s amazing to see it all come together.”

She added, “I’m so honored to be a part of it.”