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The Lyme-Old Lyme School District is opening this year with a new strategic plan that encourages global partnerships and a breadth of programs for students, among other goals.
For more than a year, community, staff, parents, students and town officials offered their top priorities for the direction they wanted the school district to take.
Now the district has turned those comments into long-term goals that the school board will review each year.
One of the resounding messages from the community was for Lyme-Old Lyme schools to continue to offer a variety of programs and unique opportunities, even as the district faces declining enrollment, like many other schools in the state, said Superintendent of Schools Ian Neviaser. The district is projecting 1,370 students for this school year, according to the 2014-15 budget book.
"We wanted to be able to find creative ways to continue to offer the programs we do," said Neviaser.
The district labeled its plan with the phrase, "Small Schools, Big Ideas," to show that it is continuing to offer unique programs.
"We might be small, but big things go on here," said Neviaser.
The new plan also focuses on the concept of "global citizenship" and offering students ways to connect with the global community through opportunities that include partnering with international schools, internships and mentorships.
"We are committed to providing exemplary schools, partnering with the community, nurturing passion for lifelong learning, fostering global citizenship, and maximizing potential," the plan states.
Neviaser said the district has recognized that the world is accessible to students through the click of a button. The district wants to make sure children are prepared for the new accessibility and for being employed in that environment.
To that end, the district is increasing access to technology across the high school, middle and elementary schools. Every school has laptop carts and there will be more computers in class.
In addition to bringing laptops and iPads into the classroom, the district is realigning staff positions, such as library specialists, to play a greater role in incorporating the district's technology.
"They're excited about it," said Neviaser.
As all other districts in the state, Lyme-Old Lyme is continuing to align its curriculum with the new Common Core State Standards, a set of state-standardized academic benchmarks, and prepare for the new standardized test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, said Neviaser.
The district also aims to step up its connection to the community, including Lyme and Old Lyme, for example, by expanding mentorship opportunities offered to students, said Neviaser.
A committee of about 30 parents, employees, students and elected officials from Lyme and Old Lyme helped guide the strategic planning process, as the school district aimed to update and review the strategic plan that was approved seven years ago. The LEARN Regional Educational Service Center, based in Old Lyme, assisted the committee. Groups of student volunteers also took iPads with the surveys out into the community, at community events or locations such as the Big Y.
Neviaser said the new, long-term strategic plan, approved by the school board last month, will serve as a "living document" to reflect the district's goals. The school board will review the plan each year.