Midway Early Learning Center reaching out to students most in need

By Catherine Ferland 
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

For Neal Cronkite — a teacher in Holt — and his wife, sending their two sons to Midway Early Learning Center was a carefully calculated, but well-made choice. “After touring the centers, we made a spreadsheet and color-coded it with pros and cons — yes, we are those people,” he said with a smile. After comparing costs, scheduling, education level of the teachers and other factors, they made their choice. “He is learning to solve problems with other kids, that he has to wait his turn, and to share,” Cronkite said, while discussing the increased socialization that he’s seen in his three-year-old son, Ian. “He also works everyday to learn new things like colors, shapes, letters, and the weather.

"Peace circles" a positive alternative to traditional discipline at one Holt school

By Aundreana Jones-Poole
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

Are out-of-school suspensions an effective way of handling adolescent misbehavior, or is there a better alternative? The Restorative Justice Initiative is a non-profit program that was developed by the Resolution Services Center of Central Michigan and serves local school districts by helping students with conflict resolution and preventative tools. The program was founded in 2004 in Lansing, and currently serves multiple schools in different districts, including Hope Middle School in Holt.

“It is not uncommon that districts will have restorative practice programs,” said Greta Trice, Executive Director at the Resolutions Service Center. “Holt has a facilitator that we train and monitor at the school.”

The program aims to bring people, both victim and offender, together and teach them how to handle and resolve their conflicts. The program uses effective conferencing and “peace circles” — which brings together victims and offenders to give the offender a deeper understanding of the consequences and the victim’s own humanity — to solve conflicts and reduce the number of days students are suspended from school.

A traditional school year calendar or a so-called balanced one? Holt parents have a choice

By Aundreana Jones-Poole
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

The Holt School District is giving parents a choice between sending their children to traditional or balanced calendar schools. A balanced calendar still gives students the same 180-day school semester as a traditional calendar, but doesn’t allow students a three-month summer vacation. Instead, it is reduced to eight weeks or less. Breaks of typically two weeks are given to students in the fall, around the holidays in winter, and in the spring. The Holt School District has two balanced calendar elementary schools, Horizon and Sycamore, both kindergarten through fourth grade, but isn’t currently making any initiatives to convert the other nine traditional calendar schools into balanced calendars, according District Superintendent David Hornak.

Holt schools meeting state standards, facing achievement gap

By Kelsey Block
The Holt Journal

At the October Board of Education meeting, Holt Curriculum Director Ruth Riddle reported that six schools in the district have a significant achievement gap. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Education released a top-to-bottom ranking of schools in the state. The list is based on data collected through the 2013-2014 MEAP tests. Within that list, schools can receive one of three designations: reward, focus or priority. Reward schools are the top 5 percent of schools in the ranking, priority schools are the bottom 5 percent of schools, and focus schools are the 10 percent of schools that have a significant gap in achievement between the highest and lowest scoring students.