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Changes to greet Greensburg Salem students next week

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 7:16 p.m.

Greensburg Salem will be adding more CLASS to programs when school reopens next week.

District officials are beginning the Character, Leadership, Advisory, Scholarship and Service program — CLASS for short — as part of several new initiatives planned for 2013-14, Superintendent Eileen Amato said.

About 2,950 students will be in classrooms when school begins on Wednesday, up about 135 pupils since a year ago, district officials project.

With CLASS, high school students will meet once weekly for 35 minutes with a teacher to share successes and stumbling blocks they have been experiencing with other students from grades 9-12, Amato said.

“It will be a time that people can learn from each other,” Amato said.

For example, a student who has thrived in an endeavor might share with other students how that success was achieved.

“It's really trying to create an outreach with the community,” Ken Bissell, coordinator of secondary education, told school directors about the program during a meeting earlier this month.

Members of the Class of 2009 said they want to talk to students about the loss they experienced when three students died in an alcohol-related crash, he said.

Students will see other changes to the curriculum, including an emphasis on literature and math, Amato said.

District officials are changing the order that students take algebra and geometry.

Students will take algebra I, followed by algebra II the next year, then geometry, Amato said.

Students previously took geometry in between the two algebra courses.

Administrators believe students retain more of what they learn by having the two levels of algebra one after the other, rather than under the previously used format, aimed more at test scores, Amato said.

The district has added more technology to classrooms, including Smart Boards, interactive boards with benefits such as allowing teachers to assess students' understanding of a lesson while it is in progress.

All classrooms will be “smart” by next school year, Amato said.

In addition to fiction, a greater emphasis will be placed on students reading nonfiction, Amato said.

In the middle school, students will use an online pre-test learning tool to identify educational areas where they are succeeding and struggling.

Students using the Internet more makes sense, Amato said.

“I think our young teachers and students are so used to technology that in order for us to meet their needs ... we have to take advantage of it,” Amato said.

District officials will be improving the messaging system used for parents to allow for longer, more detailed messages to be sent via emails and text messages.

Workers are nearly finished installing a new roof on the Amos K. Hutchinson Elementary School. They will continue working the first few days of school — and possibly on weekends — to solve a problem related to leaking skylights, Amato said.

Workers are attempting to finish applying custom-made floors in multipurpose rooms in Robert F. Nicely and James H. Metzgar elementary schools, Amato said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or