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The Sanibel School ready for another school year

By Staff | Aug 19, 2015

The Sanibel School Principal Barbara Von Harten and Assistant Principal Jamie Reid. MEGHAN McCOY

It’s that time of year again when youngsters put on their backpacks and head to school eager to meet their teachers and see their friends.

The Sanibel School will hold an open house Thursday, Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m. for elementary school students and at 6:30 p.m. for sixth grade students and new to the school seventh and eighth grade students. Each student will receive a personal invitation from their teacher to attend the open house and seventh and eighth grade students who have attended The Sanibel School in years past will receive their schedule in the mail.

“When they come to the Open House they are going to hear from their teacher and learn everything they need to learn to prepare for that first day,” The Sanibel School Principal Barbara Von Harten said. “It’s going to be an exciting school year. We are looking forward to it.”

The first day of school is Monday, Aug. 24. The schedule is the same as last year, 7:55 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.

As another school year begins, the hallways of The Sanibel School are bursting with excitement as teachers get ready for the first day of school.

One of the most exciting new initiatives for the upcoming year is every student in fifth through eighth grade will receive a Chrome Book. The Sanibel School is the only elementary school in Lee County that will be using Chrome Books.

The teachers began training with the Chrome Books and Google platforms and Google classrooms, so they are ready to roll out the new initiative as the school year begins.

“The children will be able to take those home and work collaboratively with many assignments with other students and get immediate feedback from the teachers. It is really the wave of the future and it should enhance engagement of the students. It should be a nice enhancement to our program of studies,” Von Harten said.

The Chrome Books used at the middle school level are being provided by the district. The Sanibel School is providing the fifth grade Chrome Books at the school level.

Students will be welcomed by quite a few new faces this year, one of which is the new Assistant Principal Jamie Reid who was hired in June.

“She is replacing Nancy McDole who was our assistant principal for 15 years,” Von Harten said. “I hired Nancy 15 years ago when we first added on our middle school to The Sanibel School because we used to be just a little elementary school when I came here 18 years ago.”

Reid is going to ensure a smooth transition once Von Harten retires at the end of the year.

“I have mixed emotions. It sounded like a good idea four years ago,” she said of entering the Deferred Retirement Option Program. “I love my job and I love what I do. As I am sitting here hiring teachers this summer and preparing for a school year, it is such an exciting time and there are so many new initiatives that we are working on this summer that it is dawning on me that this is the last time I will experience this excitement of getting ready for another school year with so many new initiatives and things to accomplish.”

With her retirement off in the distant future, Von Harten said she is finding herself reflecting on the early years of coming to The Sanibel School. When she first started at the school she said they had two computers in each classroom. Now in the third through eighth grade classrooms there is almost a one-to-one computing ratio for the students.

“It’s a really exciting time to be in education,” she said. “The Sanibel School has always been a pioneer with new technologies and new programs. Those are some of the thing that have made us a National Blue Ribbon School.”

In addition to hiring a new assistant principal, Von Harten also hired a new kindergarten, first grade, third grade, middle school language arts and a music teacher to kick off the 2015-2016 school year. The hired staff is a result of three teachers retiring last year.

“After 18 years I have hired now most of the teachers on this staff and they are fabulous and second to none,” she said. “I’m very proud of them and very excited about the new teachers. The children and the parents are going to love them.”

Although the teachers are new to The Sanibel School, most of them are experienced teachers offering fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

Another new initiative that the teachers will roll out this year comes from a book Von Harten purchased for all of her teachers to read over the summer called “Mindset.” She said the staff will focus on ensuring and re-instilling a mindset in their students as opposed to a fixed mindset.

To help all of The Sanibel School students thrive in a nurturing learning community, Von Harten has a bulletin board that shares the district’s mission and priorities, as well as the schools mission, which includes a “Declaration of Interdependence” that the teachers developed and sign at the beginning of the school year.

The school, which is also very data driven, has teachers keeping track of their student improvement plan, so they can develop their own improvement plan, which is then incorporated into the various grade levels and the school as whole.

“It really helps ensure that every student at The Sanibel School reaches their highest potential and is successful,” she said.

Von Harten said adding middle school to The Sanibel School was a great addition because kids can essentially remain at the same school for nine years in a nurturing environment where the teachers really get to know their students.

“They are so confident when they leave us,” she said of the students. “They excel when they go on to high school because they are confident in their skills and abilities. We are always hearing about their successes when they leave us and go on to bigger schools and other challenges.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.