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USD 428 improves student preparation
Districts ACT study sessions improving scores

Nex-Tech donates backpacks for freshmen

It’s in the bag, or at least it will be for incoming freshmen at Great Bend High School.
Drawstring backpacks, courtesy of Nex-Tech, will be handed out to all freshmen students on their first day of school on Aug. 23. Opening day for freshmen is a day earlier than other high school students to allow them a day to become acclimated and meet with their upper-classmen mentors.
Nex-Tech donated 280 “flip bags” through a grant secured by Lacy Wolters, GBHS Career/Act Coordinator.
The grant was approximately a $900 donation to help students have a successful first day of high school.
“We would like to thank Nex-Tech for their generous grant to the freshman class,” said Daryl Moore, GBHS assistant principal.
“We are active in the communities we serve and helping support schools is a great way to give back to a community,” said Dustin Schlaefli, director of customer engagement at Nex-Tech.
The bags will be used to hold their first-day packet and orientation materials.

Students at Great Bend High School now have more opportunities to learn about careers before they graduate, and they have more opportunities to prepare for the ACT test if they plan to attend college.
Career/ACT Coordinator Lacy Wolters at GBHS discussed the progress of both programs during Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting.

The programs for juniors and seniors were introduced this past spring, and will expand in the coming school year.
Working with local businesses, GBHS set up job shadowing opportunities for several students. They spent time with people in medical fields, business, education, and public safety, such as the police department and fire department. In doing so, students can learn whether a career choice would be good for them or not, and what to do if they want to continue on that path.
Learning that a career isn’t a good fit can be as valuable as learning it is, Wolters noted. One junior who attended four sessions learned he did not want to go into the business field. If students behave professionally, they may attend as many sessions as they wish, she said.

More than 30 students attended one or more job shadowing sessions last spring and Wolters hopes that number can be increased to about 50 per semester.
“We are looking for more business sponsorships,” she said. Anyone interested in offering a job shadowing activity may contact her or Assistant Principal Randy Wetzel at the high school.
School board members expressed support for the program.
“I really appreciate your effort in this area because it’s really valuable, board member Cheryl Rugan said.

ACT study
Wolters is also working to help college-bound students score higher on the American College Test (ACT). In 2015 she started voluntary Sunday study sessions for the test, in addition to sessions that were already available.
In 2015-2016, 67 students participated in study sessions, and in 2016-2017 the number jumped to 95. Students who attended one to four sessions and retook the test saw their scores increase by 1.5 points. Those who attended 10-27 times saw their scores increase by 3.1 points.

Last year, approximately 36 percent of seniors who took the ACT attended study sessions, Wolters said.
“This is up from 26 percent the year before, but in order to improve the overall graduating class average, the majority of students that test need to attend study sessions.” She noted that the 2017 graduates who had the five lowest ACT scores did not participate in any study sessions. These scores impacted the overall class average.

One hindrance to participation is that many students have after-school jobs. Her goal is to increase the number of students that participate and the number of times they do so. In addition to evening study sessions and 8th-hour sessions, Wolters plans to add after-school sessions from 3:05-4:35 p.m. daily.
She also plans to target juniors and seniors who have taken the ACT test and received scores lower than 21. She would like to implement mandatory ACT class sessions for those students two or three times a week.
“Up to this point, it’s always been voluntary for students to attend,” she said.
“This is impressive,” board member Susan Young commented.
“Your flexibility and availability to kids is helpful,” Rugan said.

Other business
In other business Monday, the board:
• Heard a report on the summer meal program. During the month of June, Great Bend USD 428 served 4,648 breakfasts and 9,484 lunches to children at five schools, for an average of 232 breakfasts and 474 lunches daily. Last year’s daily average was 233 breakfasts and 444 lunches. For the month of July, Park Elementary will be the only meal site, and will serve only lunch.
• Hired Sheri Heilman to teach English at Great Bend High School.
• Accepted a donation of 280 drawstring backpacks from Nex-Tech. See related story.