Challenges Greet Some GIPS Students on 1st Day of School


Wednesday marked the first day of school for some kids in Grand Island.

Four schools on G.I. Public's continuous calendar – Howard, Starr, Jefferson and West Lawn elementaries – returned.

The pilot program started in 2011 with Howard, with the other elementary schools joining a year later.

Administrators said the schedule could help students retain information.

The district plans to find out if that’s the case at the end of this year after collecting data for the past three years.

Going into his third year of continuous calendar, Jefferson second grade teacher Jason Zelasney said it's still a tight turn around.

"The month of July is very tough. The kids come back really excited, which really helps out," he said.

"We make do with what we have in that situation. We know it's going to be a short summer, but the nice part is we have intersessions built in throughout the school year," said John Hauser, principal at Starr Elementary.

Starr and Jefferson staff said more challenging are the open concept classrooms they’re returning to.

"Kiddos have to travel sometimes through three classrooms just to get to the restroom," said Jeanna Fiala, principal at Jefferson Elementary.

"[The] curtain for my door," said Zelasney.

"Right now I can hear three different teachers talking in the background as we're speaking; and it's hard for adults and it's almost impossible for children to focus," said Nate Balcom, Starr integration specialist.

That's why some staff are also focusing on making sure people are aware of a $69.9 million bond that will be decided in September.

"The bond issue is going to take care of the open concept situation we have here at Starr," said Hauser.

Those dealing with that situation say the price tag is worth it.

"It's important that every kid is getting the same opportunities as other schools," said Zelasney.

Five other projects would be funded by the bond issue: a new Stolley Park Elementary, and renovations to Engleman Elementary, Shoemaker Elementary, Barr Middle School and Grand Island Senior High.

The ballot will be mailed out around August 20, and must be returned to the election office by 5 p.m. on September 9.