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6 Need-to-Know Facts for Back to School in Dearborn

From changes in athletic fees to a new bullying program, here's what parents should know when they drop the little ones off at school this fall.

Change is inevitable, and as our environment, our homes and our communities undergo conversions on many fronts, so do the schools.

At Dearborn Public Schools, the talk of change has been a topic mostly brought on by budgetary concerns. But because new ideas are always taking root, students may see subtle or obvious changes at their school.

So, to help parents make note of important changes, Dearborn Patch has compiled a list that will hopefully make the back-to-school season a little easier.

1. School start times – Though there was much talk earlier this year about , and having elementary and middle schools start earlier, there will be no such change this year, said schools spokesman David Mustonen.

“The board is looking at changes in the start times, but nothing will be implemented immediately,” he said.

But officials are seeking data about what start times may work for students for the 2012-13 school year to provide for enough input for parents, and will likely address this in future board meetings, according to schools officials.

2. Athletic fees – will be less expensive this year.

This year, middle school students who participate in extracurricular activities will pay $50 per student, and high schoolers will pay $75. The fees will cover as many activities and sports a student would like to participate in.

For the past few years, the fees were significantly higher. The trade-off for families will be that no hardship waivers will be granted for the school year.

3. Class size – The school district was in June to balance its books, and while , most will fill vacant positions. That means some classrooms could see a slight increase in the number of students.

This year, most classes will have between 25 and 27 students. “But once we get students in the seats, we can take a look at where things are, which is what we do every school year,” Mustonen said.

Additionally, the district will use 57 fewer paraprofessionals in its classrooms this year. Layoffs were made Monday, the .

4. Bullying program – Parents will likely be very happy to know that Dearborn Public Schools will roll out a to address any issues of unfairness and intimidation among the student bodies at each building.

The program was conceived after extensive research by district staffers and will offer resources to teachers that have typically not been available. There will be programming and activities put into place to help all of the stakeholders–from parents to teachers and the students themselves–understand the potential effects of bullying in the classroom and school setting, as well as cyber and electronic bullying after school hours.

5. Computer lab – Parents of students who attend the Dearborn Center for Math, Science and Technology are likely to hear rave reviews about the new computer lab enhancements made over the summer.

The Dearborn Education Foundation and the Ford Motor Company Fund recently gave the schools $25,000 to replace existing work stations with updated technology.

6. Reading resources – Sixth-grade middle schoolers who need assistance with reading and comprehension will have a new tool available to them that has vastly improved the skills of the district’s elementary school students.

The focuses on four key areas: Comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. Mini-lessons that are taught to students focus on four areas: reading to oneself, reading to another person, listening and writing. Students participate in assignments in large groups, small groups and as individuals.

The program will be available for sixth-graders at all of the district's middle schools for the first time, Mustonen said.

The program, which was implemented at the elementary level last year, has been , and will hopefully do the same thing for the district's sixth-graders this year.

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