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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Springfield, Nixa Among Schools to Showcase Facility Upgrades, Leadership Changes As Classes Resume

Nixa Communications Director Zac Rantz details the layout of the Nixa High School current renovations and future plans/Credit:

Doors reopen in the Ozarks this week at several schools as the new school year is set to begin. KSMU’s Scott Harvey profiles what a couple of districts have in store for returning students.

At Nixa High School Monday, where the new school year kicks off Tuesday, officials formally unveiled its new classroom wing, part of a $9 million bond measure approved by voters which also included a new wing at the junior high.

High School Principal Mark McGehee says the extra office space, three classrooms, two science labs and a computer lab are essential, considering the number of students attending.

“It’s a beautiful high school facility, but it has definitely needed the classroom space. We will be growing by close to 150, almost 200 students this year. We’ll be pushing close to 1,800 students for our enrollment at the high school this year,” McGehee says.

The wing expansion, phase 1 of the school’s renovation, took about a year to complete. Officials hope that down the road, a second phase will consist of a gymnasium/FEMA safe room at the high school, as well as football stadium upgrades. A third phase could add even more classrooms at the high school, which is already available in the form of third floor shell space, or space that was constructed to meet future needs.

Nixa’s facility upgrades are among several that students throughout the region have to look forward to, as Springfield Public Schools open their doors Wednesday.

Last week, the district held ribbon cuttings to mark the openings of the Jeffries Elementary gym and safe room, and the Westport K-8 School, which for the first time will house students who previously attended Study Middle School.

Ben Hackenwerth is the associate superintendent for Springfield Public Schools. He says given that not every school in the district has a full-time guidance counselor, a lot of students will benefit this year from a bond and tax levy approved by voters in April.

“About 15 of our schools will have additional guidance and counseling support that they did not have last year. Seven of those will have full-time counselors for the first time in their history,” Hackenwerth says.

Hackenwerth adds that six, site-based clinicians with experience in social work will be available to assist students and their families in crisis, and other emotional needs that may prevent a student from being successful. Additionally, 20 behavior interventionists are assigned to each of Springfield’s Title I schools, to help curtail any issues before they possibly escalate.

“We are big on stakeholder feedback, and the teachers are certainly a stakeholder of ours at this level. So we did survey our teachers on a couple of different occasions, and these particular issues seemed to rise to the top of those surveys.”

There will also be some new faces in leadership roles for Springfield Public Schools, as the district will start the year Wednesday with 10 new principals. Furthermore, this will be Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder's final year leading the district. Hired in July 2005, Ridder announced last week that he plans to conclude his tenure by June 30, 2014.