Eye on the Weather

When you live in Wisconsin, it’s fair to expect cold, snowy spells that can make life difficult.

But when severe winter weather makes things downright dangerous, school districts tasked with the care of hundreds of children have the responsibility to keep them safe by making the right call on canceling or delaying schools. In Stoughton, those decisions are made in the early morning on the day school is scheduled, after consulting both with local weather reports and other area schools.

Last week, Stoughton joined many other school districts around the state in closing its doors, but others in the area, including Madison, did not. 


Mentoring program connects SHS, Fox Prairie students

Photo by Derek Spellman. Stoughton High School student Nyesha Baker stops at the desk of Fox Prairie student Jack Conant during math class. Baker works in Fox Prairie Elementary School classrooms through the “Lead for Life” program, where 20 SHS students visit Fox classrooms twice a week and help out as part of the service learning class.

Stoughton High School junior Trevon Halverson-Williams is paying it forward as a mentor to Fox Prairie Elementary School kids.

“I know when I was young, I got some help, and that was really cool,” he said.

Halverson-Williams is one of 20 SHS students in the school’s “Lead for Life” program. In the semester-long course, service learning experiences provide students the opportunity to learn about themselves, gain leadership skills and demonstrate civic responsibility.

To put it another way: The program helps create what Todd Hipke calls “a leadership pipeline.”

“Our intent is that they will lead for the rest of their life and get involved in their communities,” said Hipke, who created and developed the program and oversees  it with SHS educator Beth Anderson.


District, utility still working on water issue at middle school

Photo by Mark Ignatowski. With elevated lead levels still found in the drinking water at River Bluff Middle School, the district has provided bottled drinking water.

For more than three months, the drinking fountains have been turned off at River Bluff Middle School due to lead contamination. With officials from the Stoughton Area School District and Stoughton Utilities still unable to agree on the source of the contamination, they will now turn to a consultant to find some answers.

The two sides recently agreed to ask an independent third party – “a firm recommended by both the city’s consultant and the (DNR)” – to identify the source of lead, said district community information and resource coordinator Derek Spellman. 

“We expect to receive a proposed contract soon,” he said, noting that Stoughton Utilities agreed to split the cost. “Once an agreement is in place, we will have a better timetable for a long-term resolution of this issue.”


Making the Connection

When it comes to technology, all the fancy computers and gadgets are useless without access.

That’s why Stoughton Area School District officials are excited about recent upgrades to schools that have increased students’ abilities to work online. Since last school year, the district added 100 desktop computers, 100 laptop computers and 230 Chromebooks. The district also improved 60 access points for wireless devices at the high school, moving the old systems to the elementary and middle schools.

SASD director of information systems Paul Vande Hei, who gave Stoughton School Board members a technology update at their Dec. 1 meeting, said the goal of the district is to increase access for students and teachers by adding more devices and ways to connect to technology.


District, utility disagree on lead source

Nearly three months after drinking fountains at River Bluff Middle School were turned off as a result of elevated lead levels in the water, officials from the school district and Stoughton Utilities can’t agree on the source of the problem.

Drinking water at the school was shut off Sept. 30, after district officials received test results showing elevated levels of lead in the school’s water. District director of business services Erica Pickett said at Monday night’s school board meeting that after flushing the water system, a seventh round of tests showed the only area with elevated levels is where water enters the building.

And that’s where things get a bit complicated.


Innovation in motion at Fox Prairie

Photo submitted by Derek Spellman. Fox Prairie student Kayla Schultz raises her hand to answer a question during math class. The stand-up desk is part of an Innovation Grant project with Fox Prairie fourth- and fifth-graders that explores how motion can improve student learning.

In this classroom, being sent away from your desk is not necessarily a punishment.

“It’s cool,” says Fox Prairie fifth-grader Kayla Schultz as she takes her turn at the classroom’s standing desk.

It’s part of a Stoughton Area School District (SASD) Innovation Grant in action. Last year, Fox Prairie Elementary School teachers Cassie Perkins, Mary Scott, Nancy Nortwen, Tara Hutchins, Molly Grotenhuis and Trish Rorvig were awarded a grant to pilot a program that looks at the link between student movement and academic performance. That means students in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Fox have desks they can stand at, exercise balls to sit on, lap pads to apply and fidgets to squeeze while learning in class.


Bracing for an emergency

Photo submitted by Derek Spellman. Stoughton High School students Taylour Halverson, left, and LaShay Edwards practice setting splints during an emergency medical responder class. The course is offered at the high school but taught by Madison College through a partnership.

Stoughton High School senior Taylour Halverson wants to become an emergency room nurse partly because you never know what could come through the door of an ER.

She is already learning some of the skills she might need in a new emergency medical responder course offered at SHS with Madison College. The class is a pilot program that allows students to receive training in multiple aspects of emergency medical care required at the scene of an accident or in sudden illness.

“(SASD school to career coordinator Cindy Vaughn) was looking for additional programs for kids to have access to and talked to some people at Madison College,” said SHS teacher Stephen Stokes. “They could not do an EMT class because you have to be 18 so they came up with this.  This program is offered as adult education/non-credit at MATC, but we are doing it dual-credit here (kids get SHS and MATC credit).”


Fab Lab open house photos

Stoughton Area School District students had a chance to visit the high school's Fab Lab  Tuesday, Nov. 18, to see what the facility offers.


Stopping the ‘summer slide’

For an elementary school student, there’s nothing quite like the freedom and unadulterated joy that comes from the three-month-long summer break. No school every day, no job, just playing, having fun and enjoying being a kid.

Unfortunately, the many weeks away from school can often have negative effects on students’ learning skills – the dreaded, so-called “summer slide” – where kids start the school year further behind on skills than they left earlier that spring. With some children, the change can put them back significantly in the new school year, leaving them behind their classmates, causing frustration, poor grades and even forcing some to re-take a grade. 


School board appoints Dirks to vacant seat

Scott Dirks is back on the Stoughton Area School District Board of Education after board members selected him from among three candidates who they interviewed before their Monday night meeting. 

A member of the board from 2011-13, he will take over the term of Pat Volk, who resigned his seat last month, citing growing difficulties to make meetings due to work commitments.

Dirks’ term will expire in April, and he told board members he intends to run again, which was a key part of the board’s decision on whom they selected to fill the open seat.