News & Media

Back to school 2015-16: Here’s what is changing at your school district this year

08/23/2015 Lancaster Online By Kara Newhouse

If you don't know what STEM is, learn fast. It's coming to a school near you.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, and it's been buzzword in education for several years. School and business leaders have called for more emphasis on these subjects in order to fill unmet demands in the labor market and provide paths to high-paying careers.

As a new school year arrives, more Lancaster County schools are responding to that call.

At Elanco School District, for instance, elementary students will take a special STEM class once per week. In the class, students will apply concepts from their science lessons to hands-on projects, such as building small ramps while studying motion and force.

The course is aimed at bringing academic subjects to life and increasing students' knowledge about careers like engineering, said Assistant Superintendent Nadine Larkin.

But STEM's not the only trend that can be spotted in classrooms for 2015-16. More than a dozen local districts and private schools will open their doors this week. Here are some of the major changes in programs, facilities, technology and leadership you'll see as the new year gets underway.


All students in grades 5 through 8 will be issued an Apple laptop as the first phase in a one-to-one computer program.

The physical education and service learning requirement for high school seniors will be expanded to include other course options, such as financial literacy and 21st century communications.

The middle school technology education curriculum has been revamped to integrate more math and science.

All tenth-grade students will take PSATs this fall. Data will inform classroom instruction.

A job experience program for special education students has been developed, the Self-advocacy Knowledge, Independence, Learning, and Living Success (SKILLS) Program. This program takes the places of services previously contracted to Intermediate Unit 13.

Full breakfast will be sold at all elementary schools. Students will eat in their classrooms.

A turf sports field is nearing completion. Other athletics upgrades include updates to the discus and javelin areas, a new top coat applied to the track around the football field, relocation and construction of new junior varsity and varsity softball fields and refurbishing of the junior varsity and varsity baseball fields. A concession stand also is under construction.

Columbia Borough

Not provided

Conestoga Valley

Two clubs will pair older students with younger students as mentors. LINK Crew will pair freshman with senior mentors at the high school. WEB will pair seventh-graders with eighth-graders at the middle school.

Recent construction included roof repairs at the high school and Fritz Elementary School, energy-efficient lighting in the middle school parking lot and a sewer project at Brownstown Elementary School.

Lenovo laptops will be issued to all fifth- through eighth-grade students. A drone was purchased with a Conestoga Valley Education Foundation grant. It will be used by technology classes and career education classes.

Baron Jones is principal at the middle school. Sally Bredeman is principal at Smoketown Elementary School. Nicole Reinking is assistant principal at the high school.


A one-to-one computer program will be launched in grades 5 through 8.

The district's new athletic complex is under construction. It was expected to be ready for use by September, but the architect recently told the Donegal school board that the new completion date is Oct. 28.

Nick Crowther will be assistant principal at Donegal Intermediate School.


All students in kindergarten through sixth grade will take a STEM class once per week. Garden Spot High School will offer a science forensics course as an elective.

The one-to-one computer program now includes all students in grades 1 to 12. Students in grades 7 through 12 take their computers home with them.


The "BRINGING UP literacy initiative" at elementary schools will focus on involving the entire family in literacy by sharing online tips, strategies and resources specifically designed for in-home support.

Two hundred Google Chromebooks were purchased for the middle school. The district is now on Twitter. The district website is now mobile responsive, meaning the site will appear in the best format for whatever device it is accessed.


A dozen new laptops have been added to most middle and high school classrooms. Additional iPads also have been purchased.

A classroom at Ephrata High School at Washington has been converted into an apartment where life skills students can learn hands-on skills in cooking, cleaning and independent living.

Construction is underway on the new bathroom facility at War Memorial Field. The building should be completed for the first home football game on Friday, Sept. 4. It will include 11 men's and 19 women's fixtures, and one family restroom.

New stage and house lighting using LED lights is being installed in the middle and high school auditoriums.

School Gate Guardian, a visitor check-in system, will be used at all buildings. The system scans state IDs and tracks and archives each visit.

Kevin Deemer has transferred to the position of intermediate and middle school principal. Brett Esbenshade was named principal at Highland Elementary, and Laura Mandell was appointed assistant principal at the high school.


Students in all fourth-grade classrooms will be issued iPads.

Chris Adams is now superintendent. Michael Bromirski is assistant superintendent. Sheryl Pursel is district business manager.

The high school has withdrawn from the National School Lunch Program for the year.

One trimester of science classes in grades 5 and 6 will be STEM units.

Intermediate Unit 13

IU13 has two certified STEM trainers who will provide support and training to Lancaster and Lebanon county schools.

The speed of the statewide Internet network for education agencies has been upgraded for a ten-fold speed increase. A majority of Lancaster County's school districts use the network through IU13.

IU13 is serving as the lead agency for a new Community School at Reynolds, with a focus on supporting refugees resettling in Lancaster County. Services include case management, health services, after-school programs and classes for parents.

Online speech and language therapy will be available to some students with speech delays. Students will be linked with a certified speech language pathologist.


The number of hybrid learning classrooms in the district has doubled from seven to 15. These classrooms blend traditional instruction with digital resources. Hybrid learning classrooms for 2015-16 are: grade 5 math, grade 6 reading, grade 7 math, grade 8 math and science, grade 9 science, grade 10 literature and biology.

Elementary schools have switched from quarters to trimesters. Report cards at those schools have been modified to reflect PA Core Standards.

The track has been renovated. Tennis courts are under construction.

All classrooms at Lampeter Elementary have been equipped with Apple TVs. Two computer labs at the high school have been outfitted with new computers.


Select teachers at three elementary schools will pilot a hybrid learning initiative that combines teacher lessons with online lessons. The pilot will focus on math instruction.

About 750 computers were purchased to replace older devices.

Damaris Rau took the superintendent position in July. Michael Slechta is serving as acting principal at Wharton Elementary.

Lancaster Catholic

Terry Klugh is high school principal.

Lancaster Country Day

The college guidance program has been expanded. Students and families will start working with one a college counselors in tenth grade. Forums and workshops to learn more about the college application process will be offered for grade 7 to 9.

Chinese will be offered in middle school and in fifth grade. Hip-hop dance and tap dance have been added to the performing arts curriculum.

A robotics course and a 3-D printing course have been added at the upper school.

Lancaster County Career & Technology Center

A sports medicine and rehabilitation technician program was added at the Willow Street campus.

The final phase of a construction project at Mount Joy is wrapping up. In addition to being painted, areas that were updated included classrooms, the cafeteria and the HVAC system.

New leadership includes Keith Yohn, assistant executive director; Darla Gettle, director of student services; David Smith, Mount Joy principal; Jim Catino, Willow Street principal; and James Brunken, Brownstown assistant principal.

Lancaster County Christian

Becky Sprenkle has been named principal at the Leola campus, and Lori Sparks has been named principal at the West Lampeter campus.

Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to take a course and receive college credit through Indiana Wesleyan University's "Life Calling" program. Two LCCS teachers were trained and certified this summer to teach this course. The course is part of a larger "Calling Prep" program at LCCS that will encourage all students to discover and pursue their gifts and passions.

Lancaster Mennonite

Elizabeth Landis has been named principal of Lancaster Mennonite Middle School, while continuing duties as associate principal for the high school.

The New Danville campus's "Blazer Buddies" program will be adopted at the Locust Grove and Kraybill campuses. The program grants leadership opportunities to older students, such as assisting younger classes, making morning announcements on the intercom, greeting school visitors and helping with school events.

High school students can take an online course in business for high school credit or for credit from Harrisburg Area Community College.

The first floor of the old dormitory, Graybill Hall, has been upgraded to house an overflow of female residential students for the fall. The gymnasium at the New Danville campus was renovated. Students will get their first view on Aug. 20.

Linden Hall

Michael E. Waylett will take the helm as the 41st Head of School.

Dance class will be offered as a half-credit course in physical education or art. Students taking photography will have the chance to work with alternative processes, such as cyanotype and tintypes.

Two new 3-D printers will be available for use in robotics, engineering, math and art courses.

Students in the Community Services Musicians Group will visit The New School of Lancaster several times during the year to introduce younger students to music through an "instrument show and tell"

Manheim Central

All eighth-graders will be issued a Lenovo Yoga 11e laptop, headphones, and a carrying case as part of a one-to-one laptop program. All kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms will have seven student iPads and a teacher iPad.

The district wireless network has been upgraded to be up to 20 times faster. A new district website was launched this summer.

Construction is completed on the district office addition to the middle school. Design work is continuing on two new elementary schools. A new elementary school will be constructed on the Doe Run Elementary site to replace the existing school, vacated in October 2014 because of structural concerns. The new building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017 and expected to go to bid this December. A new elementary school also will be constructed at the intersection of Hazel and Gramby streets.

Manheim Township

The student activity fee has been reduced to $50 per activity with an individual cap of $150 per year. (Fees were previously $120 for the first activity with a $260 cap.)

Several district administrators have move to new positions: Anthony Aldinger is director of community outreach; William Gillis is principal at Landis Run Intermediate School; Andrew Martin is principal at Bucher Elementary School; Deborah Mitchell is director of college and career workforce; David Rilatt is high school principal; Karen Nell is director of federal programs and curriculum; Dana Schrodel is assistant principal at Landis Run Intermediate School; Douglas Sing is truancy coordinator; Daniel Weber is assistant principal at the high school; and Christopher Zander is Schaeffer Elementary Principal.

In addition, Matthew Johns will move from a teaching role to serve as interim high school dean of students. Roger J. Czerwinski II has been named athletic director.


Not provided

Penn Manor

Pequea Elementary School is closed for the year for a $15 million renovation/addition project that began in June. Students have been shifted to other schools. The project is expected to be completed for the 2016-2017 year.

Jerry Egan was named assistant superintendent for elementary education. Eric Howe has replaced Egan as principal of Hambright Elementary School. Kim Marsh has replaced Howe as assistant principal at the high school.

The one-to-one computer program is expanding from the high school to both middle schools. It involves about 1,200 Lenovo laptops that students will continue to use in high school.

Pequea Valley

Beth Reinhart is head principal at Paradise and Salisbury elementary schools. GeriAnn Lambert is assistant principal for Paradise Elementary. Sheri McGowan is assistant principal for Salisbury Elementary. Amy Koberstein is assistant principal at the high school. Jared Erb is the blended learning and cyber school coordinator.

Elective STEM courses for juniors and accelerated learners have been added at the high school.


Scott Long is a new assistant principal at Solanco High School.

Six 3-D printers were added to create computer-assisted design and drafting lab at the high school.


John R. Bonfield Elementary School, built in 1994, was renovated this summer, featuring a new roof and HVAC system. Renovations will be completed prior to the start of school.

The district administrative team has been reorganized. Melanie Calendar, formerly Director of Elementary Education and Federal Programs, is now Assistant to the Superintendent for Elementary Education and Student Services.

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