by Merrie Leininger |

by Merrie Leininger

Staff Writer

A new school year brings new programs to Douglas students.

The students at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School will return to find the emphasis placed on reading. Every morning for half an hour, all classes will suspend regular classes to allow students to read.

“If someone comes to our school during the first 30 minutes, they will find 750 students and 50 adults reading,” said Principal Charlie Condron.

The program, which school members observed in action at a school in Reno, provides computerized tests for each book on a list.

Each student will be given a list of books in their reading level and they will have to pass three tests with a 85 percent in that level before moving on.

Vice Principal Rita Elliott said the reading practice was identified as a something lacking in schools.

“To be a good reader, you need to practice,” she said. “After the fifth grade, practice declines considerably.”

The idea behind the program is to focus individually on each student’s reading level and work from there. Last year, all students were tested so they could start with books on their individual reading levels.

Elliott said in order not to single out students with lower reading levels, the books still look like other students’ books, but the vocabulary in them is on a level they won’t easily get frustrated with.

“I really believe in it. Statistics show students who read on their own reading level learn faster,” Elliot said.

In addition to bringing students up to their grade level, they hope to have students excel and read far above their grade level.

“We felt reading was an area all students could improve in even if that student already read at their grade level,” Condron said. An accountability committee came to that decision after reviewing student data achievement two years ago.

“Although all our scores are above average in the nation and in Nevada, the reading scores indicated a need to improve,” he said.

The only problem with the program seems to be the cost.

Grants paid for the $1,700 worth of books and software, but the school was hoping to have triple the selection.

Elliott said the school anticipates starting costs of around $9,000, and the school has applied for three more grants to help them.

n Database. Douglas High School was accepted by the Nevada State Library as one of 15 pilot high schools to use the Internet to access databases for research.

With the new equipment, students will have access to 20 different databases, Principal Bev Jeans said.

“When students need information for a paper they are writing, they would have access,” Jeans said. “We personally would not be able to afford the computer equipment that is being given to us.”

She said the databases will be a great source for both students and teachers.

n Proficient. Douglas High seniors who didn’t pass the state proficiency tests last year will have extra math practice in the form of a seminar that will take place in the first six weeks of school.

Jeans said the students are required to pass the test to graduate.

The seminar will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. one day a week and will cost $50.

Jeans said the class will specifically address the types of skills students need to learn for the math test. Reading and writing skills will be addressed in English classes, she said.

n Traffic safety. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will be spending time with Douglas High students during the second week of September, Jeans said.

They will be focusing on the importance of traffic safety in small groups to help facilitate discussion.

“With student accidents in the past year, we think having kids focus on the need to be safe is very important,” Jeans said.

n Taking action. Douglas High students working with the Community Action Team will be preparing to bring a peer court to the community.

The sheriff’s office has applied for a grant to help get the program off the ground.

However, Jeans said, the school will continue with its plans with or without the money.

The idea is to address minor infractions by taking the student before a jury of his or her peers.

“If a student decides to use inappropriate language in a restaurant at lunch, then he will be dealt with in peer court,” she said.

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