Kody Asmus, Nevada High School principal, kicked off the Jan. 22 school board meeting by updating the board on some statistics, comparing the school years between 2016-17’s block schedule and 2017-18’s hybrid block and period schedule. Compared to 24 percent of students last school year, only 16 percent show failing grades this semester. Additionally, the total number of absences has decreased from 258 to 144 this year.

The school is hopefully creating a more individualized schedule and not pigeonholing students into certain classes, said Asmus.

Instructors Dr. Heather Ludwig (English/speech) and Kimberly Huegerich (foreign language) gave the board an update on the Launch program. They explained that rather than every student learning the same curriculum that may or may not interest them, the students in the Launch program are able to create their own curriculum based on their individual interests, as well as their connections to the community.

“We’re really pushing the students into a rigorous college and workplace environment that they will be getting in what we call ‘the real world,’” said Huegerich.

For one example, student Peighton Kannel’s project features the essential question, ‘How does photography impact how we view society?’ Kannel has involved her parents, as well as friends from across the nation, and even some international contacts to gain different perspectives on how Iowa is viewed through photos she has loaded onto a created website. Students also partner with a community member involved in their area of interest, and meet with a faculty member acting as a coach for their project at least biweekly.

Ludwig and Huegerich have seen the students who are involved learn valuable skills, such as patience, when someone does not provide feedback right away; time management skills to push through their projects despite obstacles that arise and critical thinking. Students keep a log to record their reflections throughout the process as well. Numbers of students participating are expected to increase from 16 to 24 participants in the coming semester.

Seniors Caitlyn Tibodeau and Amanda Harter updated the board on their SCALE program projects. Through this internship program, students leave their high school campuses to contribute on projects for area businesses.

Tibodeau worked with Vision Bank of Ames and created a financial literacy class for fifth- and sixth-grade students, which she tested on Nevada Middle School students earlier this semester. Tibodeau also created her own LinkedIn profile, as well as a professional resume.

Harter (daughter of school board member Leanne) worked with Home Base Iowa, a statewide program designed to make veterans feel more comfortable in their respective communities. As a result of the students’ work, changes were made to incentive programs, and there are now more applicants for Home Base Iowa in Story County.

In other news:

• Superintendent Dr. Steve Gray said that work is progressing as planned on the new Billy Sunday Baseball Field as part of the athletic complex on 19th Street. Gray expects to break ground on the new field in the spring.

• Asmus mentioned that the administration is working on a plan to decorate the school with photographs and thumbprints of students. Students will dip their thumbs in purple or gold paint to press their thumbprints on a large, three-dimensional 2018 graphic, to be displayed somewhere in the school.

The next board meeting will be Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m.