Music, encouraging signs, cheers, and high fives awaited students at Bon Air Elementary, Pettit Park Elementary, and Bon Air Middle schools as the kindergartners through eight-graders entered their buildings for the first day of school July 31.
Kokomo Schools officials, Kokomo community volunteers, and State of Indiana representatives lined the entrances to the three school buildings to welcome students to the 2019-2020 school year. These adults and high school students rang bells, waved pom-poms, and held up signs with messages, including “Bon Air Rocks,” “Welcome Back,” “Do Your Best,” “U R Great,” and more.
“We are astounded by the overwhelming support shown to our students by so many different people,” Bon Air Middle School Principal Amanda Landrum said, following the celebratory welcome.
The event impacted one student so much that the child’s mother sought out a principal to share the experience.
“From minute-one this morning, my child wanted absolutely nothing to do with school,” the mom said. “Sulked all the way here. But when my child heard the band playing and saw the church volunteers singing and dancing with their pom-poms, the face lit up and a big smile showed up. I so appreciate these people and the high school students for welcoming us to school and making this a great first day.”
In 2018, the Indiana State Board of Education approved a plan to restructure Bon Air Elementary, Pettit Park Elementary, and Bon Air Middle School into a “Transformation Zone.” School and district leadership worked with staff at each building to develop this plan, which includes evidence-based interventions to drive school improvement.
During the 2018-2019 school year, teachers at the three buildings worked to develop a more personalized learning environment by attending regular professional development workshops and by collaborating to create new and innovative ways of teaching.
This school year, Pettit Park and Bon Air students will have an extended school calendar, as well as slightly longer school days to allow for additional targeted learning time for all students.
“Hands-on learning is the best type of learning,” Principal Landrum said. “Students in the Transformation Zone have an extended school calendar to allow for more hands-on activities that often do not fit into a regular school calendar. For example, our middle school students may be in the community completing service projects, or they could be doing short internships with local businesses.”
Bon Air Elementary, Pettit Park Elementary, and Bon Air Middle schools have partnered with several community and church organizations to support student and family involvement in the Transformation Zone through a Family Academy. The schools and partner organizations plan to host Family Academy events throughout the school year for the students and their families.
Ron Sandlin, senior director for school performance and transformation at the Indiana State Board of Education, said the Transformation Zone process began three years ago with a review of the three schools.
“We heard a yearning for support from the community,” Sandlin said.
While helping welcome Kokomo’s Transformation Zone students back to school on July 31, Sandlin saw that support and witnessed some of the benefits of the hard work put forth by school officials and staff.
“I believe the Transformation Zone has brought new energy to these students, teachers, and families,” he said.
Sandlin reiterated that the plan that is guiding these new changes is not driven by the State Board of Education. The state board only endorsed the plan. The interventions are driven by school leaders, and their teachers.
Bon Air Elementary School teacher Casey Jones said she was excited to move forward with the Transformation Zone plan.
“As an educator in the Transformation Zone, I am very excited for the opportunities these changes create for our students,” Jones said. “With the extra time built into the school day, our students will be able to reinforce skills they are developing in new and creative ways.”