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Fox Chapel Area students return to school next week

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Ayla Ojanen, 5, gets her first look around O'Hara Elementary School with her mother Anna Ojanen as they get ready for her first day of school.

The countdown is on.

Just one more week of sleeping in and swimming all day.

Classes begin at Fox Chapel Area School District on Aug. 22, with nearly 4,300 students on the roster.

District administrators have seen a busy summer with many changes, including at least four new faces in top positions.

Rachel Fischbaugh is the new principal at Hartwood Elementary and said she can't wait for the first day of school.

“I'm ready to jump in,” said Fischbaugh, who comes to the Saxonburg Boulevard school from the North Allegheny School District.

There's also a new principal at Fairview Elementary. Rebecca Stephan, formerly with the Pine-Richland School District, began her duties shortly before the school bells let out for summer.

She also said she is anxious to become more familiar with all of the students and their families.

Matthew Harris, former principal at Dorseyville Middle School, is now the district's coordinator of instruction, staff development and secondary curriculum.

“The biggest difference will be the focus, it will be narrowed,” said Harris, who served as principal for six years and has been with the district for 20 years.

He'll set his sights on new ways to help middle school students learn, Harris said.

Taking his place in the hallways at the middle school is Jonathan Nauhaus, who moves up from assistant principal.

Having worked at the middle school since 2007, Nauhaus was named acting principal earlier this summer.

Students at Dorseyville this year will participate in a new project-based learning program using iPads, provided by the district, said Bonnie Berzonski, coordinator of communications.

It won't begin until January, but the 1:1 pilot program is aimed at enhancing the curriculum through lessons that focus on inquiry, discovery and collaboration, she said.

“This project seeks to transform instruction to best meet the needs of the 21st Century learner as well as prepare learners for collegiate and workplace expectations,” Berzonski said.

“The iPads help fully recognize the vision of project-based learning where students are engaged with and inspired by the learning.”

At the high school, there are several new science and music courses on tap for the school year.

Berzonski said the high school is implementing a science course that is expected to help students earn more success on the Biology Keystone Exam. The tests will be administered across the state this year.

“Existing courses such as molecular biology and Biology I have also been modified to better align with both the New Generation Science standards and the state Department of Education Science standards,” Berzonski said.

A committee of parents, teachers and science professionals recommended the changes after a study of the secondary science curriculum.

New to the high school music department are courses on world music and the history of rock and roll.

Both were added to meet the interests of the students, Berzonski said.

At the elementary level, a new language arts program will be used called Benchmark Literacy and Writing.

The district also has upgraded the online access to progress and grade information for students and parents.

“PowerSchool” portal provides real-time progress in a user-friendly delivery, Berzonski said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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