Johnstown-Monroe schools will see several changes in the new school year, including additional immunization requirements for all students, an evolving "flex credit" policy mandated by the state, increased academic intervention for all students and additional minutes in the elementary school day.

Johnstown-Monroe schools will see several changes in the new school year, including additional immunization requirements for all students, an evolving "flex credit" policy mandated by the state, increased academic intervention for all students and additional minutes in the elementary school day.

Classes begin Aug. 19 for students in grades 1-12. Kindergartners start school on Aug. 23.

"Start times at the elementary schools are changing this year," said Superintendent Damien Bawn. "We're trying to build in more time for teacher collaboration and contact time with students. The two big things that research shows in student achievement is time on task and quality of teaching, and by adding a few minutes to the day we can focus on those things."

The changes, which amount to about 15 minutes by tweaking start and release times, will improve the ability of the schools to schedule team teaching, he said.

"It increases instructional time by allowing us time during those times when kids are in what we call 'specials' physical education, music, or a computer lab with aides we can put teachers together in teams," Bawn said. "The more minutes in the day, the more opportunity to arrange those schedules."

Laura Lawrence, director of curriculum and special education, said the district has been working to increase individual focus on each student.

"We've been working on individualizing the work we do with children, to meet each individual's needs," she said. "We want to understand their learning styles and whether there is anything special we can do to help them learn. The classroom teacher is providing individual small group support to students who need it.

"In the past, the state special education model required a student to fail before you had that kind of support or looked to see what support they might need. With response to intervention, the classroom teacher is much more involved in that."

The district is using a tool known as Aimsweb, a set of rubrics and assessments designed to identify when students are not grasping the curriculum.

"It is a screen that helps identify students who are falling behind, or having trouble grasping a concept or skill," Lawrence said. "We'll provide more intervention in the classroom setting."

The district has not yet finalized flex credit standards, but will offer the option, as it is required to do under recent changes to education law.

"When you look at credit flex, we won't just send kids out and say, go forth and learn," Bawn said. "There will be parameters and ways to report on what they've done.

"What separates us from animals is we can think about thinking and communicate about thinking. We want people to function on their own, to direct their own learning. But it's never in a vacuum."

The district has applied for a waiver for one component of flex credit that allows students to test out of classroom work by demonstrating competence in a required credit area.

Bawn said parents should visit the district website, www.johnstown.k12.oh.us, to ensure that their children have required immunizations. State law has changed, so both existing and new students may be required to update their shots.