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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The ABCs of the new school year

Adams Elementary School students catch the bus on Oct. 1, 2012. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Back to school means more than books.

It’s about new programs, new facilities, new faces and new issues. Throughout the Inland Northwest, students, parents and educators have much to look forward to this year.

Here’s an alphabetical guide to just a few:

A is for the Aerospace program at Shadle Park High School – a relatively new offering that received a big boost this year from the Spokane school board to make it a fully accredited program. To learn more, contact the school.

B is for Bonds. Spokane Public Schools has big plans: three new middle schools, replacement of three others, and major improvements throughout the district. Taking advantage of a local savings following the McCleary court decison and underused land owned by the city of Spokane, the district has placed a $496 million bond measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

C is for charter schools, which are publicly funded but are a good option for families who believe in the same type of education the school provides.

D is for devices, especially your child’s cellphone. Policies and discipline vary by district and even by school, so be sure your child understands what’s allowed - before, during and after school.

E is for the Express Program, a lifeline for working parents in Spokane whose children are in kindergarten through sixth grade. The YMCA also offers a similar child-care program covering other districts.

F is for Franklin Elementary School, an architectural treasure that also hosts a Spokane Public Schools’ APPLE program. A $17 million modernization and addition project, financed by the 2012 bond, is expected to be complete by December.

G is for guns and security in schools. Should schools arm resource officers? The question is among the most divisive in the country and in Spokane, and the debate will continue this fall.

H is for Human Growth and Development, another controversial topic for parents and educators. Spokane Public Schools is in the midst of developing a new sex ed program for 9th graders.

I is for Immersion at the Libby Center, where the comprehensive Spanish-language program is expanding. Each year it will expand by one grade, eventually growing to a full elementary program. This program accepts kindergarten students through a lottery. Interested in Spanish immersion for the 2019-20 school year? Be sure to apply by Feb. 15.

J is for jobs. Looking to get involved in education? Even during the school year, districts are hiring for many positions. As of Friday, Spokane Public Schools had 46 openings and Central Valley had 90 full- and part-time job openings.

K is for kindergarten, which can be the most exciting and frightening time for children and parents, especially as most districts have adopted all-day kindergarten.

L is for libraries, especially the Spokane Public Library, which is providing free cards for every student in Spokane Public Schools. It’s easy and it’s free - happy reading!

M is for McCleary, a landmark court ruling that mandates full funding of Washington schools by the state. The money means more and better paid teachers along with other initiatives in every school district in the state.

N is for nutrition, which can be a challenge for some families. However, free and reduced-price lunches and breakfasts are available at all area school districts,. The biggest are Spokane, Central Valley, Mead, East Valley, West Valley, Cheney and Coeur d’Alene

O is for On Track Academy, an offering by Spokane Public Schools that’s dedicated to helping teenage students believe in themselves again.

P is for Partners in Science, a remarkable collaboration between the biology department at Whitworth University. and North Central High School, where students will help with cutting-edge research.

Q is for quick access, and every parent needs it from time to time. Here are links to fast answers from districts around the region, including Spokane, Central Valley, Mead, East Valley, West Valley and Cheney.

R is for Restorative practices, an effort by Spokane Public Schools to find alternatives to expulsion and other measures. The program attempts to seek solutions through mediation and conflict resolution.

S is for STEM, and it stands for science, technology, engineering and math. It has grown into a popular options in education today. Every major school district offers STEM, and many have summer camps.

T is for teachers, and there are more than 4,000 of them in Spokane County, who’ve been working for weeks for the first day of school.

U is for under construction, and it’s happening throughout the county and especially at Mead and Cheney.

V is for volunteering. You can help your local schools. Contact your district. The needs are great, from helping children cross the street to fundraising for music and sports. Schools need you.

W is for the Walking School Bus. If your child lives within a one-mile radius of her school, she can’t ride the bus. The Walking School Bus is designed for trusted and trained adult volunteers in Spokane to lead students safely to school each morning.

X is for crosswalks, and they’re hard to ignore. Dedicated volunteers (see above) are on duty at many intersections, helping keep children safe - and dissuading speeders. And don’t forget those speed limits. The city’s program catching speeders in school zones is working with tens of thousands of tickets and millions collected in fines.

Y is for youth programs. When and they’re located throughout the Spokane area. One of the top resources is the YMCA.

Z is for ZPass, a small card carried by Spokane students that automatically logs their entry or exit when they pass the scanner on the school bus. The information is then instantly and securely available to parents.. Notifications can also be sent directly to your computer or to your cell phone via text message.