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Changes await Sewickley Valley students as they return to classrooms

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When classes begin at Sewickley Valley schools this month and in early September, there will be a host of new programs, faces and technology for students.

In the Quaker Valley School District, when students return to class Aug. 26 for kindergarten through ninth-grade and Aug. 27 for sophomores through seniors, they will begin using a variety of computers as the school moved away from predominantly Mac-based devices, adding Dells and Google Chromebooks.

School directors in March approved spending $559,500 for a four-year lease on 1,173 computers, and purchasing 500 Chromebooks with insurance and carrying cases.

Leased computers include 490 Dells, 428 MacBook Airs, 205 MacBook Pros and 50 iMacs.

Quaker Valley had used mostly Apple computers since about 2001.

Most of the MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros and iMacs now will be used by staff and administration.

Seniors will continue using MacBooks that are part of a previous lease agreement.

The leasing agreement allows Quaker Valley to continue a one-to-one student/laptop initiative for grades 6 through 12.

In the middle school, students will be introduced to Mandarin Chinese as part of the exploratory languages program in sixth grade, spokeswoman Tina Vojtko said.

At lunch, prices will increase by 10 cents – from $2.50 to $2.60 — for all students, while breakfast will remain $1.50, she said.

Across the district, 23 teachers either will be new to Quaker Valley or in new positions, Vojtko said.

Sewickley Academy

When Sewickley Academy students return to classes after Labor Day, they might see new faces, new classes and new technology at the Edgeworth campus.

The first day of classes is Sept. 3 for senior school students, and Sept. 4 for the lower and middle schools.

Since last school year, the school hired seven new faculty members and three staff members, bringing the total to 144, spokeswoman Mandi Semple said.

Sesame Zamora, who comes to the academy with more than a decade of teaching experience at independent schools in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, will teach Latin in the senior and middle schools. The language hasn't been offered for more than a decade.

Other new senior school classes include Creative Resistance in the History department and Documenting the World in the English department.

Head of Senior School Jon Cassie will be teaching a short course to all freshman on design thinking and creative problem solving.

In addition to the reintroduction of Latin in sixth grade, there will be several new programs at the middle school. A new after-school program, Expanding The Link, will include guided homework time and student meet-ups.

The middle school also will participate in a national research project among independent schools on character education's rule in preparing for success in classrooms and the workplace.

In the lower school, robotics continues to be added in computer classes, and a new math specialist will assist in classrooms and help students needing extra support on a daily basis. Over the summer, all schools received some technological upgrades, Semple said.

St. James School

Classes resume for kindergarten through eighth grade students at St. James School Aug. 22. But Aug. 26 is when 181 students will attend their first full day of classes.

Children in the school's age 3 pre-kindergarten program had a Thursday morning orientation class, but won't start school until Sept. 3. Age 4 pre-kindergarten orientation will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday, and will start class Sept. 4.

In addition to classes returning, staff members await the school's Middle States accreditation, said Sister Christy Hill, the school's principal.

Middle States Association officials visited the school for three days in April, and faculty and administration completed the protocol required by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Educational Office and Middle States.

“The team's report stated that from what they observed during their visit, St. James School was recommended for reaccreditation,” Hill said.

The report is the first step in a four-tiered review process that will lead to a final accreditation decision.

Montessori Children's Community

With enrollment up 15 percent to 125 students, there are a lot of changes in store at Montessori Children's Community in Sewickley when students and teachers begin another school year Aug. 26.

A new classroom has been added for seventh- and eighth-graders, and upper elementary students are moving to a new space that also is being renovated to accommodate the increase in class size, head of school Terri Modic said.

In the middle school, students will take part in a creative expression program each Wednesday during the first six weeks of class. The first session will feature a glass artist who will teach students to fuse glass to make bowls and other items. Students also will learn the history of glass in the region.

In addition, a robotics consultant will present a program to middle school students, who also will visit the TechShop — a community-based workshop and prototype studio — at Bakery Square in East Liberty to do other projects.

Pick-up and drop-off and security measures will remain the same, Modic said.

Teachers will meet each student either at a bus or at cars and welcome each into school to ensure safety and the same applies to pick up, she said.

“We have evaluated our security procedures with the tragedies this past year,” Modic said. “We feel that our procedures are appropriate, and we provide the safest environment we possibly can.”

Joanne Barron, Bobby Cherry and Kristina Serafini are staff writers for Trib Total Media. They can be reached at 412-324-1400 or

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