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Keystone Central School District proud of accomplishments despite COVID

PHOTO PROVIDED Students at Robb Elementary participate in a remote learning exercise.

MILL HALL — As we all know, 2020 and 2021 haven’t been like any other year thus far. With the challenges we have faced not only worldwide, but also in our school district, we had to overcome and rise above them. Better days not only lie ahead for all of us in the community but also as students, educators, administrators, and essential employees.

Keystone Central School District is not only looking forward to the future but is also proud of where we stand now. Many great things are happening in our district and it’s all thanks to parents, staff, and the community working together.

Curriculum programs for students have changed this past year. Mrs. Megan Hull, director of Curriculum and Innovation stated, “At the elementary level, we are shifting our instructional practices to align with the Science of Reading.” After looking diligently at how they have taught K-2 reading, teachers realize that some students needed an extension of time to devote primarily to reading. Globally, more research is being done to find the best way to teach children to learn to read and how to read well. It’s KCSD’s goal to not only teach to those children advancing in reading but to also attend to those who encounter difficulty in learning to read. All students now have intervention time to either sharpen their reading skills or take enrichment classes for those who are ready to continue their reading journey.

While school was out during the spring and summer, teachers were training and learning the Science of Reading while still teaching students as well. Third Quest, a reading intervention for middle school students is being implemented. Mrs. Megan Hull described this as, “a gamified intervention that focuses on the foundational skills of reading.” She continued by saying, “We will be closely monitoring the growth of our students and hope that this additional intervention will help meet the needs of our students!”

With this unpredictable year, the use of instructional technology has greatly increased. Superintendent Dr. Jacquelyn Martin stated, “The pandemic created a sense of urgency to use technology in a more effective way.” All students throughout the district are being assigned an individual device, a Chromebook, to access curricular resources and to promote modern learning. Hull stated, “We are very excited to be officially 1:1 with students and devices, which allows us to have more engaging and meaningful integration of technology in our classrooms (and afar). We are excited to see an increased use of technology for the use of student engagement, formative assessment usage, and project-based learning. We have ongoing professional development available to our staff to help support them with their technology usage and we’re excited to see how this addition helps our students learn and grow!”

PHOTO PROVIDED CTC students practice construction trades by making a park bench.

In KCSD’s northern tier, Bucktail high school has increased academic opportunities and is preparing for some exciting upgrades to the school building. Principal Mike Hall expressed that there are increased course offerings for students this year. Bucktail students have full access to all 11 Career and Technical Center programs through coordinated scheduling and with transportation being provided in the morning and afternoon. He stated, “Remote learning opportunities have given our students more opportunities to take courses like German and Calculus that were not offered in the past.” The school will be undergoing some renovations in the summer to improve air conditioning, heating upgrades along with cosmetic changes that will improve the inside and outside environment of the school. This past spring, Bucktail schools couldn’t participate in sports due to Covid-19 but started up again in the fall and winter seasons. Mr. Hall expressed that the baseball and softball teams are excited to get back on the fields this spring and build on their successes from two years ago. On February 21, 2021, KCSD dedicated the Bucktail High School basketball court to Frank “Jack” Hanobic to honor his many years of service in serving youth sports in the community.

As for KCSD’s southern tier schools, there are several new beginnings in athletics and student activities. For starters, Central Mountain acquired a new Athletic Director Stephen Hafele. He is new to the area and seeking to increase opportunities and build successful programs. Also new at Central Mountain High School this year is the Girl’s Wrestling Program (advisor Biff Walizer), a Bocce Ball Team (advisor Len Rutecki), and a PA Clay Target League (advisor Keith Killinger). There are five girls participating in girls wrestling in the inaugural season. According to the Special Olympics Interscholastic Unified Sports®, “Bocci Ball is a fully-inclusive co-ed after-school high school sports program. It successfully facilitates social inclusion by bringing together students with intellectual disabilities, other disabilities, and without disabilities on teams for training and competition. By providing opportunities for students with and without disabilities to participate in sports meaningfully and as equal peers, Interscholastic Unified Sports helps improve school climates, facilitates friendships and changes hearts and minds”.

The Clay Target League allows students who love target shooting to have the experience to learn and grow while representing their high school. Students will be able to compete in weekly trap shootings by submitting scores online. In addition, a new BSN Sideline Store for athletic apparel has launched for students and fans. To better support our athletes Hafele stated that they are “looking into virtual guest speakers in the Spring.” They want to provide their athletes with a lesson on sports psychology.

KCSD high school students have the opportunity to “dual-enroll” at colleges in our surrounding area. Dual-enrollment students have the chance to take classes at Clarion, Mansfield, Lackawanna College, Penn College, and Lock Haven University. Students who wish to take courses at either Clarion or Mansfield need to request information from the guidance office. Each of the colleges has different requirements for the students who want to take a class at their university. Next school year, CMHS students have the option to take a dual-enrollment class for Lackawanna College through the business department at the school. For students who are currently taking classes for LHU or who are interested next year, there will be a change in the process that guidance will know more about in April. The Pennsylvania College of Technology offers a program called PennNOW, which allows students in high school to learn the responsibilities and studies needed of a college student. Mrs. Carrie Adams-Smith, 12th-grade school counselor wanted to stress that, “it is vital that students follow all the requirements to register for these classes… failure to follow the directions could result in students not being able to participate in the program.”

Covid-19 has disrupted CTC in ways we have never seen, but KCSD CTC has overcome many of the obstacles by working with businesses and industries to provide new types of learning alternatives. Kurt Lynch, Director of Keystone Central Career and Technology states, “Students have been working on industry certifications via an electronic platform in conjunction with the direction of business and industry and the Dept. of Education.” Instructors have been addressing many of the tasks in each area through the use of go-pro cameras to be able to show students live demonstrations while learning at home. CTC has made more inroads in connecting dual enrollment credits to the platform for CTC learners. The connection to post-secondary institutions can aid students in getting college credits while enrolled in the CTC course. These credits are transferable at many institutions of higher learning and very valuable to students and parents.

PHOTO PROVIDED Students at Mill Hall Elementary work on their laptops in a socially distanced classroom.

KCSD’s school-to-work programs are thriving even with Covid-19, and many businesses are looking for a workforce. The school-to-work office, led by Mrs. Daci Killinger, provides a connection from school to work through a variety of programs like Co-op and Diversified Occupations. Covid-19 has increased business partnerships within the community and surrounding areas. This was unexpected from the pandemic, but a positive for students! CTC has worked through many hurdles during the pandemic, but it also has made staff think outside the box to deliver quality education to students in a different setting.

As we continue to navigate the obstacles of Covid-19, Keystone Central School District is still achieving many new and great opportunities for their students and staff. No matter how many curveballs are thrown our way, we have been able to knock them out of the park! Keystone Central School District is excited for the “Better Days Ahead”, but also proud of how much we have achieved so far!

Keystone Central School District

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86 Administration Drive

PHOTO PROVIDED Students work on a project in a media class at Central Mountain High School.

Mill Hall, PA 17751

570-893-4900

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