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By Lisa Loomis
Some 2,300 students, from preschoolers to high school seniors, return to the classroom next week on August 27. At Harwood Union, Principal Duane Pierson and his staff are anticipating some 829 middle and high school students.
Returning and new students will find some changes at Harwood this year. Pierson was interviewed in his office this week, surrounded by stacks of paper, school flags, two laptops, a desktop and a few items of black and gold clothing. He explained some of those changes.
Pierson is excited about those changes, including a new student records database that will, when fully online, allow parents to keep an eye on student progress via computer. Teachers are now learning the new software and making the switch from paper record keeping to electronic. That system will be operational for parents by January.
The new system, Powerschool, is an internet-based information system that is in use by the rest of the supervisory union as a way to manage grades and student information, Pierson said.
"Our website has been upgraded and goes online soon. It was done by students as part of a class," Pierson said.
Students will also find all the light fixtures in the school retrofitted with high-efficiency fluorescents. Last year the school board, in response to a student proposal, allocated $58,000 for the switchover to the high-efficiency fixtures.
The school's woodchip heating system will make its debut this year, Pierson said.
"This will be our first year and we have fuel oil as a backup, but the woodchips will be our primary heating source," he said.
As <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> goes to press on August 20, community members and school staffers are installing a new school marquee on the south lawn of the school. That marquee will provide parents, students, staff and community members with information about school events, sports events and other happenings. The marquee project came from last year's successful community/school study circles as a way to improve communication between the school and the community.
Pierson is looking forward to continuing to check things off the lists that were generated from those study circles. The study circles project ended with three lists of tasks under the headings "climate," "communication" and "curriculum."
Pierson is excited about the work that has been done in terms of school climate and communication and is eager to tackle the curriculum tasks. Making curriculum relevant to real life is critical to Harwood turning out successful students he said.
"I think Harwood is really making positive progress. In the sense of school spirit, things have improved and we're giving people a voice in what's going on at Harwood," Pierson said, "and that allows us to focus on learning and making improvements where we can so that the education we're offering is meaningful for all our students."
Students, parents, board members, educators, community members and educators will make up a curriculum council that will work on that topic.
The challenge, Pierson concluded, is to keep the momentum going, and keep the school community and the greater community engaged and invested.