Marion School District students completed their third week of school this week, and the early start to the school year is already proving its value.

The district started its school year on July 26, part of the new “hybrid calendar.” By shifting to the hybrid calendar, the district is spreading out the school year and adding two-week rejuvenation breaks after every nine weeks. Though the district has fought through some Covid-related challenges in the early weeks, the early start is returning educational dividends.

“We've been extraordinarily pleased with the progress of our students so far through these early weeks,” said MSD Deputy Superintendent Hugh Inman. “We’ve had some clear challenges related to the ongoing pandemic, but the bottom line is that our students are learning and flourishing. We learned last year that the best way for our students to learn is when they are physically present in a classroom, with a dedicated, talented teacher leading the effort. In just three short weeks, we are seeing that play out.”

Some great examples are at Marion Junior High, where students in Lauren Nash's world geography class learned the five themes of geography and applied their new knowledge by trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Art I students recently spent the week working on portfolio covers. And students in 9th-grade honors English are participating in a “Socratic Seminar” – the program helps students understand ideas, issues, and values in a text through group discussion. The students practice how to listen to one another, make meaning, and find common ground while participating in a conversation.

Over at Marion Visual and Performing Arts Magnet, students began this week majoring in their preferred art form of interest and finished diagnostic testing so teachers can intentionally address learning gaps. Next week, the school will kick off its Carnival of Character, which calls for students to wear their respective Krewe colors and participate in a Krewe connect session that reflects the character value after which that Krewe is modeled. Once every nine weeks, the school will have a Good Behavior Jubilee for students who earn a satisfactory grade in conduct. Students will compete in three areas to earn the right to be the Grand Marshal of VPA’s quarterly parade.

Meanwhile, at Marion High School, students took their Diagnostic Assessment this week during fourth period to better prepare for PATH. Students learn the most-used bases, roots, prefixes, and suffixes which account for more than 80 percent of the academic English language rather than just memorizing vocabulary words.

“It's a real shift in our teaching,” said MHS Assistant Principal Emily Hall.

Elsewhere at MHS, Erica Dent's Personal Finance students are learning how to write checks and balance a checkbook. And AP Chemistry students are meeting voluntarily before school on Friday mornings, ramping up for a crucial exam in May.

More vibrant learning is taking place at Marion Math, Science and Technology Magnet, where the school launched its MST news crew this fall, featuring sixth-graders who write scripts, shoot video, and produce daily announcements for the school's YouTube channel. Students are expected to get references and are selected based on their behavior and academic standing.

Students and faculty also turned their MST pledge into a song with the help of students Jacob Cline, Aiden Webb, and Kristen McDaniel. In another project, MST students made papier-mache globes in science class “which is something you just can't do virtually,” said MST principal Ali Weimer. “Kids are interacting and working together on important projects, which enriches the learning experience.”

At Herbert Carter Global Community Magnet, the first weeks of the school year have been about building a foundation for the rest of the school year. Students have been taking assessment exams to help teachers identify where learning gaps exist, and spending time learning about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Students.

“We are already weeks ahead of where we were last year at this time,” said Herbert Carter Principal Adam O’Neal. “Last year, we had to spend the first few weeks of the school year just trying to figure out how to do virtual school, with our teachers, students, and families having to learn all the technology that went along with that. This year, we are setting the foundation for learning the right way. This puts us in a position to have a fantastic year of learning.”

With a growing enrollment of nearly 3,900 students, the Marion School District is committed to helping students develop the academic, social, and decision-making skills needed to become productive citizens in the rapidly changing technological world. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit https://www.msd3.org/ or call 870-739-5100.