In the middle of a rapid population growth, the Pleasant Valley Community School District remains committed to preserving and improving the quality of academics and extra-curricular activities for its students, Superintendent Dr. Jim Spelhaug said.
While there are currently about 4,300 students throughout the district, Spelhaug predicts that number could grow to 5,000 students in the next five or six years. The district was the fifth-fastest growing in the state for 2013-14, according to Iowa Department of Education data.
“That doesn’t change as we grow,” Spelhaug added. “We don’t feel we’re good enough at any single thing in the sense that we can say we’ve arrived, but we’ll continue to get better offer the finest academic and extracurricular programs in the state. Not for some kids, but for every kid.”
The district has 27 new faculty members. Every day, teachers at each school will collaborate through professional learning communities to determine essential standards at each grade level. Iowa Core Standards will also be integrated into every teacher's curriculum.
“That will drive everything that we do,” Assistant Superintendent Brian Strusz said.
Classes began Wednesday. The district also recently debuted its new website, pleasval.org.
Pleasant Valley High School
604 Belmont Road
Pleasant Valley High School’s incoming freshmen class of about 375 students will be the district's largest class since opening.
Principal Mike Zimmer said he’s looking forward to pleasing his students with a few additions to the school’s décor.
“They (students) were getting frustrated that they weren’t seeing their ideas implemented,” Zimmer said. “Hopefully some of the more visible changes they’ll be able to see.”
At the top of that list, Zimmer highlighted the collection of inspirational quotes including from Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou and Mahatma Gandhi that will be scattered throughout the school.
"We tried to represent every ethnicity to reflect the diversity of our student population," Zimmer said.
As the district continues to digest Iowa Core Standards for literacy and mathematics, Zimmer said his team will work to develop the curriculum to support those standards, but faculty still has a long way to go with professional development.
Pleasant Valley Junior High
3501 Wisconsin St., LeClaire
In his fourth year as principal, Trampus Budde is looking forward to welcoming about 30 to 40 new students to the district at PV Junior High.
New students will be paired with eighth-grade students who will attend sessions about being inclusive and serving as the school’s role models.
“Even when kids come to us after the school year has started, we pair them up to help them meet new people,” Budde said.
Students will start school with their regular schedule, which Budde believes will help place the focus on learning from the get-go.
The school also will have nine new full-time teachers.
“It’s one of the few professions where there’s a start and end to every year,” Budde said. “It’s always an exciting time.”
Bridgeview Elementary School
316 S. 12th St., LeClaire
Principal Tony Hiatt said it’s hard to believe he is starting his 10th year as principal at Bridgeview Elementary this fall.
“Time flies when you’re having fun,” Hiatt said, adding that many classes are full this school year.
Hiatt highlighted the school’s new literacy tutor that will work directly with students and “bring kids that are behind up to a proficient level.”
In total, the school also has two reading specialists that provide “additional support for our kiddos in the area of literacy,” Hiatt added.
In the coming years, the district plans to renovate Bridgeview and Cody elementary schools. One of them will also be expanded.
Hiatt mentioned his hope to renovate the fourth-sixth grade library and the need for more lockers.
As a new year begins, students are encouraged to walk along the “Yak n’ Trek,” a full-circle loop around the school’s playground before and after school.
“It makes it convenient for our students to stay healthy,” Hiatt said. “Overall, it’s just a good way for kids to start the day.”
Cody Elementary School
2100 Territorial Road, LeClaire
Monday night, students at every Pleasant Valley elementary school met their homeroom teachers for the year and saw their classrooms for the first time.
Principal Tim Bradley said the night plays a big role in acclimating students and families into the Cody community.
“We are in the people business,” Bradley said. “The more that we get to know kids, the more they get to know us, and it’s part of our task to make them feel as they belong.”
While Bradley said it usually takes about two weeks until students, faculty and staff find their routine, providing a comfortable learning environment from the get-go allows students to achieve at a greater pace and reach new heights.
While the district continues to attract new students, Bradley said the growth remains a “sign of health that also adds challenges.”
Bradley added district officials will have to predict “with as much certainty as possible,” where the most growth will take place — either Cody of Bridgeview.
“We have to figure out what’s the best building for remodel and what’s the best building for expansion and remodel,” he said, noting Cody has a great facility.
Hopewell Elementary School
3900 Hopewell Ave.
In his first year as principal at Pleasant Valley's newest school, Chris Welch plans to ask a lot of questions.
Whether it’s stepping out and introducing himself to anyone playing on the school’s playground or spending time in the lunch line, Welch plans to listen and ask the best questions he can.
“Learning the names and the faces and what they like and who they are, that’s the name of the game,” Welch said.
Hopewell has about 470 students, and Welch hopes to know every student’s name before winter break.
“When you can walk in the hall or the library and you can use their first name and you know who their parents are and if they have a sibling in the building, that’s a great milestone to know you’re really settling in.”
Hopewell opened in 2011 and recently underwent its last planned addition to accommodate growing numbers.
Pleasant View Elementary School
6333 Crow Creek Road
Pleasant Valley schools formally will integrate the Iowa Core Standards into every teacher’s curriculum for the first time this year, something Pleasant View Principal Steven Cotton looks forward to.
“It’s a small start, but it’s a good start that I’m excited about,” Cotton said. “I’m excited to have all classes to begin that process.”
In his sixth year at Pleasant View, Cotton reflects on his 21 years in education.
“I don’t think of it very often, I’m just glad to be in the role that I’m in, and I really enjoy what I do,” said Cotton, whose wife teaches first grade at Riverdale Heights Elementary School.
When Hopewell Elementary School opened in 2011, Cotton said 20 percent of his school’s students transferred there. This year, Cotton expects about 640 students at Pleasant View and is surprised how quickly enrollment numbers have increased.
“We knew enrollment would go back up, but we thought it would be a few more years until that would happen,” Cotton said.
Riverdale Heights Elementary School
2125 Devils Glen Road
Dropping off and picking up students at Riverdale Heights Elementary School may be easier this year following parking lot improvement work.
The project would add an additional drop-off lane for vehicles, while maintaining the bus lane and adding a right turn exit, north of the existing entrance and exit onto the school grounds from Devils Glen Road.
The third part of the project eliminates the decorative grassy area and entryway sign to create a few additional parking spaces.
Principal Jennifer Gertson said staff will be out in the parking lot helping guide parents and families with new pick-up and drop-off procedures.
Gertson said her summer flew by.
“When the kids finally get back in here, that’s what you’re there for,” Gertson said. “It’s always a good time of year when you know they’re coming back.”