Special section: Back to School

August 09, 2014 6:00 am

A guide to the 2014-15 school year.

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  • Craig Bartholomew grew up not having much. Other families in the community helped his family. And the mentality to help others has been ingrained in his mind ever since.

    Bartholomew, as owner of 360 Office Solutions, has upheld that mentality. About three years ago, Bartholomew and his company started providing backpacks filled with school supplies for low-income students of Lockwood School.

    “We want to make a difference,” Bartholomew said. “My heart goes out to the kids who don’t have very much because I grew up not having much as well.”

    Kathy Pierce, marketing director for 360 Office Solutions, said once the company found out about the students in need at Lockwood School, they took it on as a company project.

    “It’s important for the kids to fit in and have everything they need on the first day,” Pierce said. “Having those supplies makes it so they don’t have to be without.”

    The company receives donations from some of their vendors for items such as glue sticks, pens, pencils and paper. Some items, though, the company buys. 360 Office Solutions buys 100 backpacks every year for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. The backpacks differ in size, shape and color so that not too many are alike.

    Bartholomew said last year the company dropped off the bulk donation to Lockwood School so people there could stuff the backpacks with different supplies for the different students.

    The school determines the recipients of each backpack, Bartholomew said, and 360 Office Solutions buys materials not for individuals, but for all in the K-6 age range.

    “Kids are vulnerable at that age,” Bartholomew said. “We have to make this place better. These kids and these schools are part of our community, and many won’t be able to survive without the help of others.”

    Bartholomew has seen the need of students in areas like Lockwood, where some students rely on school-packed meals to eat on the weekend. But he hopes the backpacks will help the students out even more.

    “Some students might be embarrassed after getting a backpack,” Bartholomew said. “But they have nothing to be embarrassed about. Kids are smart and they know how to figure it out. Some might be thankful for what they receive, too.”

    Bartholomew said his company also works with other charities and non-profits to help others. He hopes the initiative to provide backpacks will spread to other communities where 360 is located, such as Helena and Bozeman.

    “Maybe we can ratchet it up from 100 to 200 or even 400 backpacks,” Bartholomew said. “I’d love to see the day where we buy 1,000 backpacks for kids.”

    Bartholomew said employees of the business have also helped donate to the cause. It’s all about wanting to help others, he said.

    “We are always going to do this,” he said. “We don’t do enough, but it’s a start.”

  • Register soon for SD2 schools

    Registration is open for middle- and high-school students in School District 2 schools and starts Monday, Aug. 11, for elementary students.

    The district recommends that parents or guardians call ahead to set up an appointment for registration at the appropriate school. Appointments for high-school registration should be made with the school counselors.

    Students new to the area or entering kindergarten must have a birth certificate and current immunization records in order to register.

    To find out which elementary school your child will attend, contact the secretary of elementary/secondary education, at 281-5122.

    Students must be 5 years old on or before Sept. 10 of the school year in which a child registers to enter school.

    Kindergarten classes are all day and run daily. Schedules vary by school. If you are uncertain about your child’s schedule, call your neighborhood school.

    For middle schools, call Castle Rock at 281-5800; Lewis and Clark, 281-5900; Riverside, 281-6000; or Will James, 281-6100.

    For high schools, call Senior at 281-5400; Skyview, 281-5200; or West, 281-5600.

    Students who plan to attend the Career Center may register at their home high school.

    SD2 classes begin Aug. 27, 28

    Students in kindergarten through ninth grade report to classes in School District 2 on Wednesday, Aug. 27. Classes start Thursday, Aug. 28, for ninth through 12th grades.

    School times vary by grade and school. Visit the district’s website, www.billingsschools.org, and check for details under your child’s school.

    School construction brings some changes

    Major renovations are under way at Broadwater and McKinley elementaries.

    Broadwater classrooms will not be affected by the construction. The renovations are being conducted inside the school, and the addition site is being prepared. The annex, which houses the administration and primary grades, isn’t having work done as it will be demolished when the other renovations are finished.

    In August, teachers will move back into their classrooms, and students will attend Broadwater as usual while work is done on the new addition.

    At McKinley, renovations are being done inside the school, and the addition site is being prepared. In the fall, students in kindergarten to second grade will stay at the regular McKinley location, 820 N. 31st St., and third- to fifth-graders will have classes on the third floor of Lincoln Center at 415 N. 30th St.

    At McKinley, playground equipment will be available for recess for kindergarten to second-graders, and space inside McKinley will be used for breakfast, lunch and physical education.

    Bert Reyes, McKinley’s principal, and Carolyn Yegen, the school counselor, will have opposite schedules at each building. In addition, Lincoln Center personnel can assist for supervision when needed.

    All third- to fifth-graders are asked to walk, ride bicycles or be dropped off at McKinley, and the district will provide busing to Lincoln Center. The traffic flow at Lincoln is challenging, so the distract is trying to keep additional traffic to a minimum.

    At the end of the day, students will be bused back to McKinley and then walk, cycle or be picked up to go home.

    McKinley’s secretary, Heidi Stevens, will be based at McKinley, and a staff member at Lincoln Center will check students in and out and assist parents on the third floor. All parents and guests needing to go to Lincoln’s third floor must check in at the center’s main reception area and receive a visitor pass.

    The district has remodeled an area on the first floor of Lincoln Center for breakfast and lunch. Through a partnership with the Billings Public Library, third- to fifth-graders will spend their library time at the public library, and the Lincoln Center gym and secure court yard will be used for P.E. and recess. The district is working with the YMCA for additional activity opportunities.

    Hot lunches, breakfast served

    Breakfast and hot lunch will be available at School District 2 sites.

    For all students in Billings Public Schools, the daily charge for breakfast is $1.25 or 30 cents for reduced-price meals. A weekly plan is available for $6.25 or $1.50 for reduced-price breakfast. And a 20-day breakfast pass costs $25 or $6 on the reduced-price plan.

    The daily lunch cost is $2.50 for elementary students, and reduced-cost lunches are 40 cents. Those buying the weekly lunch plan pay $12.50 and $2 for reduced-price lunches. A 20-day lunch pass costs $50 for elementary students and $8 for those on reduced-price meals.

    Adult breakfasts at elementary schools cost $1.70, with lunch available for $3.50.

    For middle- and high-school students, lunch costs $2.75 a day or 40 cents for those eligible for reduced-price meals. The weekly lunch plan costs $13.75 or $2 for reduced-price meals. And 20-day student lunch passes cost $55 or $8 for those on reduced-price meals.

    Adult breakfasts at middle and high schools cost $1.70, with lunch available for $3.70.

    Extra milk costs 60 cents for everyone.

    SD2 meal costs may be paid online

    Families may pay for their kids’ lunches and activity fees from the comfort of their own homes.

    Billings School District 2 offers MealTime Online payment processing programs through its website. Beginning Friday, Aug. 15, users simply need to set up a profile and then can complete transactions.

    MealTime offers online applications for free and reduced-price meals.

    To submit an online application:

    * Go to www.billingsschools.org.

    * Click on Quick Links.

    * Choose MealTime, then set up a user name and password. You will need your children’s student ID numbers.

    If you think the school district should have an application on file for this school year but have questions, you can call the Food Service Office at 281-5875 or check with your school’s lunch clerk.

    District provides free bus service

    Students eligible to ride school buses in Billings School District 2 will be assigned routes, stops and pickup times when they register for classes.

    All buses will operate on their scheduled routes on the opening day of school.

    School District 2 provides free bus service, according to state law, to students living more than three miles from the schools that they attend.

    Motorists should be aware that all vehicles, no matter which direction they are traveling, must stop when red lights on any school bus are flashing. Motorists must obey the posted speed limits in school zones and should be aware of students crossing intersections near schools.

    2014-15 calendar highlights listed

    Aug. 27: Kindergarteners to ninth-graders report for opening day.

    Aug. 28: Ninth- for 12th-graders begin school.

    Sept. 1: Labor Day holiday; no school.

    Sept. 23: Middle-school early release.

    Sept. 25: Elementary-school early release.

    Oct. 10: End of six-week grading period.

    Oct. 15: Elementary-school early release.

    Oct. 16, 17: Teacher PIR days. No school for students.

    Oct. 31: End of first quarter.

    Nov. 5: Parent/teacher conferences. Early release for elementary students only.

    Nov. 6-7: Parent/teacher conferences. Early release for elementary- and middle-school students.

    Nov. 21: End of six-week grading period.

    Nov. 25: Early release for elementary students.

    Nov. 26-28: Thanksgiving holiday. No school.

    Dec. 24-Jan. 2: Winter break. No school.

    Jan. 15-16: Early release for high-school students.

    Jan. 16: End of six-week grading period. End of second quarter.

    Jan 19: PIR day. No school for students.

    Feb. 12: Early release for elementary students.

    Feb. 13-16: Break. No school.

    March 6: End of six-week grading period.

    March 23: Break. No school

    March 31: End of third quarter.

    April 2: Early release for elementary students.

    April 3-6: Break. No school.

    April 13: Teacher PIR day. No school for students.

    April 24: End of six-week grading period.

    May 1: Break. No school.

    May 25: Memorial Day. No school.

    May 31: Senior, Skyview, West graduations.

    June 4: Early release for all students.

    June 5: End of fourth quarter. Last day of school.

    District maintains permanent records

    The district will maintain a permanent record and a cumulative record for each student.

    The permanent record includes identifying information, academic transcripts, immunization records and attendance records. The cumulative record may include intelligence and aptitude scores, psychological reports, achievement-test results, participation in extracurricular activities, honors and awards, teacher anecdotal records, verified reports or information from noneducational persons, verified information of relevance to the student’s education, information pertaining to release of this record and disciplinary information.

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act grants parents or guardians and students over 18 years old certain rights with respect to the student’s education records. They are:

    * The right to inspect and copy the student’s education records within a reasonable time from the day that the district receives a request for access.

    Parents or guardians of students younger than 18 years old and students older than 18 have the right to inspect and copy the student’s permanent record. They should submit to the principal or appropriate school official a written request that identifies the records they wish to inspect. The principal will make arrangements for access and notify the parents, guardians or student of the time and place where the records may be inspected.

    The district charges a small fee for copying, but no one will be denied copies of their records if they can’t pay this cost.

    The rights are denied to any person against whom an order of protection has been entered concerning a student.

    * The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the parent, guardian or student believes are inaccurate, misleading, irrelevant or improper. They should write to the school principal or records custodian, clearly identifying the part of the record that they want changed, and specify the reason.

    If the district decides not to amend the record as requested by the parent, guardian or student, the district will notify them and advise him or her of their right to a hearing. More information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the parent, guardian or student when notified of the right to a hearing.

    * The right to permit disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA or state law authorizes disclosure without consent.

    Disclosure is permitted without consent to school officials who have legitimate educational or administrative interests. A school official is an administrator, supervisor, instructor or support staff member, including health or medical staff and law-enforcement unit personnell; a person serving on the board; a person or company with whom the district has contracted to perform a special task, such as an attorney, auditor, medical consultant or therapist, or a parent, guardian or student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.

    A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

    Upon request, the district discloses education records without consent to officials of another school district in which a student has enrolled or intends to enroll, as well as to any person as specifically required by state or federal law. Before information is released, the parent or guardian will receive written notice of the information and an opportunity to inspect, copy and challenge such records. The right to challenge student records does not apply to academic grades of their child and references to expulsions or out-of-school suspensions, if the challenge is made at the time the student’s school student records are forwarded to another school to which the student is transferring.

    Disclosure is also permitted without consent to: any person for research, statistical reporting or planning, provided that no student, parent or guardian can be identified; any person named in a court order; and appropriate persons if the knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons.

    * The right to a copy of any school student record proposed to be destroyed or deleted.

    * The right to prohibit the release of directory information concerning the student.

    Throughout the school year, the district may release information regarding students including name; address; gender; grade level; birth date and place; names and addresses of parents or guardians; academic awards, degrees and honors; information in relation to school-sponsored activities, organizations and athletics; major field of study; and period of attendance in school.

    Any parent, guardian or student may prohibit the release of any or all of the above information by delivering a written objection to the building principal on or before the student’s first day of school.

    Any parent, guardian or eligible student may prohibit the release of any or all of the above information by delivering a written objection to the building principal on or before the student’s first day of school.

    * The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, concerning alleged failures by the district to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is Family Policy Compliance Office; U.S. Department of Education; 400 Maryland Ave. S.W.; Washington, DC 20202-4605.

    Congress recently passed legislation that requires high schools to provide to military recruiters, upon request, access to secondary-school students and directory information on those students. Both the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 reflect these requirements. However, a secondary-school student or the parent of the student may request that the student’s name, address and telephone listing not be released without prior written parental consent.

    District provides some school supplies

    Billings Public Schools provide textbooks, workbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias without cost to students.

    Because specific requirements for student supplies will vary from school to school, parents may wish to wait for specific recommendations from individual teachers before buying supplies.

    Most teachers, however, require supplies such as No. 2 pencils, wide-lined spiral notebooks and loose-leaf notebook paper, tablets, white glue and crayons.

    Some elementary schools post supply lists in advance either at the school or at local stores.

    Lists are also available online at the schools’ websites. Go to http://bps.schoolwires.net/Page218, then click on the school name, then the school level to find information about school supplies for your children.

    Immunization records needed

    No student should be registered or allowed to begin classes in School District 2 without a photocopy of an official immunization record.

    The law requires that students entering kindergarten or younger than 7 years old must have:

    * Four or more doses of DTP or DTAP, with one dose given after the child’s fourth birthday.

    * Three or more doses of polio vaccine, with one dose given after the child’s fourth birthday.

    * Two doses of MMR at or after the date that the child turns 12 months old and with at least one month between doses.

    Incoming seventh-graders must receive a dose of Td, if the following criteria apply:

    * At least a five-year interval has passed since the last dose of DTP, DTAP, DT or Td.

    * The pupil is 11 or older.

    * A dose of Td was not given when the child was 7 years old or older.

    SD2 has medical emergency policy

    School District 2’s Board of Trustees recognizes that schools are responsible for providing first-aid or emergency treatment to a student in case of sudden illness or injury. However, further medical attention is the responsibility of the parent or guardian.

    The district requires that every parent or guardian provide a telephone number where a parent or designee of a parent may be reached in case of an emergency.

    When a student is injured, staff will provide immediate care until relieved by a superior, a nurse or a doctor.

    The district will employ its normal procedures to address medical emergencies without regard to the existence of medical directives to health-care professionals, as such directives do not govern school-based personnel. A principal or designated staff member will call a parent or parental designee immediately, so that the parent may arrange for care or treatment of an injured student.

    When a student develops symptoms of an illness while at school, a responsible school official will:

    * Isolate the student immediately from other children to a room or area segregated for that purpose.

    * Inform a parent or guardian as soon as possible about the illness and request that a parent or guard pick up the child.

    * Report each case of suspected communicable disease the same day by telephone to a local health authority or as soon as possible thereafter if a health authority cannot be reached the same day.

    When a parent or guardian cannot be reached and when, in the judgment of a principal or other person in charge, immediate medical attention is required, an injured student may be taken directly to a hospital and treated by a physician on call. Once located, a parent or a guardian is responsible for continuing treatment or for making other arrangements.

    District embraces education for all

    School District 2 recognizes Montana’s constitutional guarantee of equal educational opportunity for everyone.

    To that end, the district will make equal educational opportunities available for all students without regard to race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, ethnicity, language barrier, religious belief, physical or mental handicap or disability, economic or social condition, or actual or potential marital or parental status.

    This policy applies to all areas of education, including academics, coursework, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, or other rights or privileges of enrollment.

    In addition, the district will not tolerate hostile or abusive treatment, derogatory remarks or acts of violence against students, staff or volunteers, in general, and of those with disabilities, in particular. The district will consider such behavior against those with disabilities as constituting discrimination on the basis of disability, in violation of state and federal law.

    Any student, parent or guardian with questions about this policy should first contact the student’s building administrator.

    The student, parent, or guardian may also address questions concerning this policy to the superintendent or to the district’s nondiscrimination coordinator. The district’s nondiscrimination coordinator is the director of human resources. The office may be reached at 281-5040.

    Anyone may file a complaint alleging violation of this policy by following the Uniform Complaint Procedure, Policy 1700.

    Public welcome at trustee meetings

    The School District 2 Board of Trustees meets at least once a month.

    Unless otherwise specified, all meetings will take place in the board room of the Lincoln Center, 415 N. 30th St.

    Regular meetings shall take place at 5:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month or at other times and places determined by a majority vote.

    Except for an unforeseen emergency, meetings must occur in a school building or in a publicly owned building located within the district.

    If regular meetings are scheduled at places other than as stated above or are adjourned to times other than a regular meeting time, notice of the meeting shall be made in the same manner as provided for special meetings.

    When a meeting date falls on a legal holiday, the meeting shall take place on the next business day.

    Community members may make comments at board meetings as described in board policy and Montana law.

    Community members may also request that the board consider a particular item as part of its agenda by submitting the item in writing to the superintendent. The written request must include information about the item and the name, address and telephone number of the community member making the request.

    The superintendent may request additional information from the community member before submitting the item for placement on the board’s agenda. The superintendent may design a paper or electronic form through which community members may request board consideration.

    If a suggested agenda item is a complaint against any district employee, the individual filing the complaint must demonstrate that the Uniform Complaint Procedure was followed.

    How to contact SD2 officials

    For general information about Billings Public Schools, contact the main switchboard at 281-5000.

    Elementary schools

    Alkali Creek

    Principal, Greg Senitte

    681 Alkali Creek Road

    281-6200, fax 254-0162


    Principal, Pam Meier

    2510 38th St. W.

    281-6201, fax 656-0169


    Principal, Cheryl Malia-McCall

    1345 Elaine St.

    281-6202, fax 254-1123


    Principal, Sandie Mammenga

    505 Milton Road

    281-6203, fax 254-1130

    Big Sky

    Principal, Lee Kvilhaug

    3231 Granger Ave.

    281-6204, fax 656-0247


    Principal, John English

    1801 Bench Blvd.

    281-6205, fax 254-1155


    Principal, Jay Lemelin

    2202 32nd St. W.

    281-6206, fax 656-0287


    Principal, Joe Halligan

    415 Broadwater Ave.

    281-6207, fax 254-0057


    Principal, Kyra Gaskill

    2135 Lewis Ave.

    281-6208, fax 656-0357

    Central Heights

    Principal, Bob Barone

    120 Lexington Drive

    281-6209, fax 656-0878

    Eagle Cliffs

    Principal, Lorrie Wolverton

    1201 Kootenai Ave.

    281-6210, fax 254-1312


    Principal, Jeri Heard

    729 Parkhill Drive

    281-6211, fax 254-1412


    Principal, Bert Reyes

    820 N. 31st St.

    281-6212, fax 254-1225


    Principal, Stacy Lemelin

    221 29th St. W.

    281-6213, fax 656-0359

    Miles Avenue

    Principal, Shanna Henry

    1601 Miles Ave.

    281-6214, fax 656-0625


    Principal, Travis Niemeyer

    605 S. Billings Blvd.

    281-6215, fax 254-1675


    Principal, Karen Ziegler

    120 Jackson St.

    281-6216, fax 254-1723

    Poly Drive

    Principal, Keith Croft

    2410 Poly Drive

    281-6217, fax 656-0649


    Principal, Lori Booke

    4188 King Ave. E.

    281-6218, fax 254-1825

    Rose Park

    Principal, Tami Concepcion

    1812 19th St. W.

    281-6219, fax 254-1404


    Principal, Mark Venner

    1440 Nutter Blvd.

    281-6220, fax 254-1965


    Principal, DeeDee Larsen

    1044 Cook Ave.

    281-6221, fax 254-1287

    Middle schools

    Castle Rock

    Principal, Nikki Hofmann

    1441 Governor’s Blvd.

    281-5800, fax 254-1116

    Lewis and Clark

    Principal, Steve Pomroy

    1315 Lewis Ave.

    281-5900, fax 281-6177


    Principal, Shaun Harrington

    3700 Madison Ave.

    281-6000, fax 255-3534

    Will James

    Principal, Reece Kalfell

    1200 30th St. W.

    281-6100, fax 281-6178

    High schools


    Principal, Dennis Holmes

    425 Grand Ave.

    281-5400, fax 281-6174


    Principal, Debra Black

    1775 High Sierra Blvd.

    281-5200, fax 255-3507


    Principal, Dave Cobb

    2201 St. John’s Ave.

    281-5600, fax 655-3100

    Career Center

    Principal, Scott Anderson

    3723 Central Ave.


    Department contacts


    Superintendent, Terry Bouck

    415 N. 30th St.


    Adult education

    Rod Svee

    415 N. 30th St.



    Roger Dereszynski

    415 N. 30th St.


    Bond project manager

    Lew Anderson

    415 N. 30th St.


    Business office

    Patricia Hubbard

    415 N. 30th St.


    Chief financial officer/clerk

    Leo Hudetz

    415 N. 30th St.


    Curriculum (K-12)

    415 N. 30th St.

    Kim Anthony


    Driver’s education

    Mark Wahl

    1470 Industrial Ave.


    Energy conservation

    Scott Reiter

    101 10th St. W.


    Facilities services

    Scott Reiter, 281-5787

    Dennis Stellingwerf, custodial foreman, 281-5888

    101 10th St. W.

    Food service

    Bette Hunt

    101 10th St. W.


    General information


    Lincoln Center, 415 N. 30th St.


    Human resources

    Jeana Lervick

    415 N. 30th St.


    Indian Education for All

    Jennifer Smith

    415 N. 30th St.


    Music/art coordinator

    Scott Corey

    415 N. 30th St.


    School leadership support

    Brenda Koch and Kathy Olson

    415 N. 30th St.


    Special education

    Tamara Covington

    415 N. 30th St.


    Special education services

    Judy Povilaitis

    415 N. 30th St.


    Student activities

    Mark Wahl

    1470 Industrial Ave.


    Support services

    1470 Industrial Ave.

    * Transportation, 281-5595

    * Print shop, 281-5578

    * Teacher Resource Center, 281-5576

    * IMC, 281-5591


    Kyle Brucker

    415 N. 30th St.


    Title programs

    415 N. 30th St.


  • Children whose families live outside the School District 2, Laurel and Lockwood boundaries, may attend one of several rural school districts, which are preparing to open for the 2014-15 academic year.

    All students who are new to the districts are required to bring birth certificates and immunization records when registering.

    Here are details about registration and the start of schools for some rural schools:

    Blue Creek School

    Blue Creek School, 3652 Blue Creek Road, will begin classes for kindergarten students on Tuesday, Aug. 26. Grades 1-6 begin school on Wednesday, Aug. 27.

    Parents of new students may contact the school at any time to register their children, although new students are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Bring a birth certificate and immunization records for the student when registering.

    Classes run from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. daily.

    Hot lunch costs $2.25 for students and $2.90 for adults and includes milk. Additional milk is available for 35 cents.

    Call 259-0653 or visit www.bluecreek.k12.mt.us for more information.

    Canyon Creek School

    Canyon Creek School, 3139 Duck Creek Road, serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

    School starts on Wednesday, Aug. 27, and classes are from 8:15 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

    Kindergarten is all day every day.

    Milk costs 35 cents, and breakfast is $1.60 for all students. Lunch costs $2.15 for students in grades K-3 and $2.50 for students in grades 4-8.

    Free busing is available for students in the district.

    Call 656-4471 or visit www.canyoncreekschool.org for information.

    Elder Grove School

    Elder Grove School, 1532 S. 64th St. W., will open for fall classes on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

    School begins at 8:05 a.m. Kindergarten through second grade dismiss at 2:15 p.m., and third through eighth grades dismiss at 3:01 p.m.

    Call the school office to arrange a time for new student to register. New students must bring immunization records, birth certificate and proof of residence in the district when registering.

    Bus service is free for children who live more than three miles from school.

    For children living less than three miles from school, bus service will cost $130 per year for the first student, $100 for the second student and $70 for each additional student in a family.

    Hot lunches cost $2.10, and additional milk is available for 40 cents. Breakfast costs $1.40.

    Call 656-2893 or visit www.eldergrove.k12.mt.us for more information.

    Elysian School

    Elysian School, 6416 Elysian Road, serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

    School begins on Wednesday, Aug. 27. Classes run from 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with an early dismissal at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.

    New students may register any time before the first day of school.

    Bus service will be offered at Elysian. Lunch, breakfast and extra milk will be available for purchase.

    For more information, call 656-4101 or visit www.elysianschool.org.

    Independent School

    Independent School, 2907 Roundup Road, will register new students in kindergarten through sixth grade any time before the first day of school. Come to the school or call to set a time to register.

    Classes begin on Wednesday, Aug. 27.

    The school day is from 8:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. Monday to Thursday. On Friday, all students are dismissed at 2 p.m.

    Hot lunches cost $2.35 for students, and milk is 30 cents. Supply lists are on the school's website.

    Call 259-8109 for more information or visit www.independent.k12.mt.us.

    Morin School

    Students report to Morin School, 8824 Pryor Road, on Wednesday, Aug. 27, for the start of the 2014-15 school year.

    The school serves kindergarten through sixth grade, and class hours are 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Free busing is available for all students in the district.

    Free lunch and breakfast are offered to all students.

    For information, call 259-6093 or visit www.morin.k12.mt.us.

    Pioneer School

    The first day of classes for students at Pioneer School, 1937 Dover Road, is Tuesday, Aug. 19.

    Classes run from 8:15 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., with early dismissal at 2:20 p.m. on Fridays.

    The school does not offer daily hot lunch, but microwaves are available. The PTA offers two hot lunches monthly, and kids can order pizza slices on Fridays. Milk is offered for 25 cents.

    Buses are available for all students, not just those living three miles or more from school.

    For more information, call 373-5357 or visit www.pioneerschool.us.

    Broadview classes resume Aug. 20

    Students attending Broadview School District report to school on Wednesday, Aug. 20.

    Registration for new students will continue until school starts, but early registration is preferred.

    The school day is from 8:15 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 8:15 a.m.-2:25 p.m. Fridays.

    Lunch costs $1.75 for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, $2 for students in grades 7-12 and $2.50 for adults.

    For more information, call 667-2337 or visit www.broadviewschools.org.

    Custer school classes start on Aug. 18

    Students attending Custer Public Schools begin classes on Monday, Aug. 18.

    For registration, new students should bring birth certificates and immunization records.

    Classes run from 8 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The four-day school weeks may change periodically.

    Hot lunches will be available for students and cost $2 for kindergarten through sixth grade and $2.50 for grades 7-12. Reduced-priced lunches are available for 40 cents for students. Extra milk costs 30 cents.

    Bus service will be available on two routes.

    For more information, call 406-856-4117 or visit www.custerschools.org.

    Huntley Project schools open Aug. 26

    Classes open Tuesday, Aug. 26, for all students in Huntley Project Schools, 1477 Ash St., Worden.

    Registration for new students continues Tuesday, Aug. 12, through the start of classes.

    The Huntley Project school day for all students is from 8:15 a.m. to 3:38 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with class times of 8:35 a.m. to 3:38 p.m. on Wednesdays and 8:15 a.m. to 2:33 p.m. on Fridays.

    Lunch costs $2.25 for students in grades K-6 and $2.50 for students in grades 7-12. Extra milk costs 30 cents. Breakfast is also available.

    For bus routes for the 2014-15 school year; see www.huntley.k12.mt.us for details.

    For more information, call 967-2540.

    Laurel students return to school on Aug. 21, 25

    School begins Monday, Aug. 25, for students in Laurel Public Schools. Freshmen have orientation on Thursday, Aug. 21.

    All new student registrations need to be done at the Laurel Public Schools Administration Office, 410 Colorado Ave. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    Call 628-8623 or go to laurel.k12.mt.us for more information.

    Laurel High School is at 203 E. Eighth St. School hours are 8:20 a.m. to 3:35 p.m., with a 2:25 p.m. dismissal on Wednesdays.

    Laurel Middle School is at 725 Washington. School hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:35 p.m., with an early dismissal at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

    Fred W. Graff Elementary for third- and fourth-graders is at 417 E. Sixth. Ave. Hours are 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with an early dismissal on Wednesdays.

    West Elementary for first- and second-graders is located at 502 Eighth Ave. Classes are from 8:25 a.m. to 3:05 p.m., with a Wednesday early dismissal.

    South Elementary for kindergarten students is located at 606 S. Fifth. School runs from 8:25 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., with a Wednesday early dismissal time.

    Hot lunch costs $2.75 for students in middle school and $2.50 for students in elementary school. High-school hot lunch costs $3, and a la carte items are available.

    Breakfast is $1.50 for students. Milk costs 50 cents for students districtwide.

    For more information, call 628-8623.

    Lockwood school year starts Aug. 27

    Students attending Lockwood Schools report for class on Wednesday, Aug. 27.

    Lockwood Schools, at 1932 U.S. Highway 87, serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Registration for new students is Wednesdays in the administration building.

    School for students in kindergarten to second grade goes from 8 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. Grades 3-8 have classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    Lunch will cost $2.65 for students in grades K-5, $2.75 for students in grades 6-8 and $3.40 for adults. Breakfast costs $1.25 for students and $2 for adults. Extra milk will be available for 50 cents.

    For more information, call 252-6022 or visit www.lockwoodschool.org.

    Shepherd classes start Aug. 20, 21

    In Shepherd, students in kindergarten through ninth grade and students new to the Shepherd school system report to class on Wednesday, Aug. 20.

    School starts Thursday, Aug. 21, for 10th through 12th grades.

    Registration is ongoing until school starts, but early registration is recommended.

    School hours are 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except on Wednesdays and Fridays when classes end at 2:30 p.m. Kindergarten students attend classes all day.

    Breakfast costs $1.50 for all students, and lunch is $2.75 for kindergarten through sixth grade and $3 for junior-high and high-school students.

    For information about elementary school, call 373-5516; for junior high, 373-5873; and, for high school, 373-5300. Or visit www.shepherd.k12.mt.us.

    Home schools parents must register their children

    Parents, guardians and caretakers planning to home-school their child or children for the 2014-15 school year are required by law to register their children with the county superintendent of schools.

    Notification must be in written form and submitted to Yellowstone County Superintendent of Schools; P.O. Box 35022; Billings, MT 59107.

    If you have questions, contact the county superintendent of schools at 256-6933 or write to the address above.

    Billings academy offers alternative

    The Billings Educational Academy, 1212 Central Ave., is a small, private school offering abundant one-on-one teaching and a flexible learning structure.

    Many of the students at the BEA have struggled in public school. The academy is in its 13th year, and its success, says the school's director, Margo Haak, has come with helping students determine how best they learn.

    Community service is also part of the school's curriculum.

    For information, call Haak at 248-4031 or visit www.billingsedacademy.com.

    The academy follows the School District 2 calendar, and registration is taken throughout the year.

    Catholic Schools class times set

    Billings Catholic Schools offers high-school, elementary, kindergarten and preschool classes. School begins with a half-day for students on Monday, Aug. 25.

    For information about registration, call the administration office at 252-0997.

    Billings Central Catholic High

    Central High, at 3 Broadwater Ave., has classes from 8:05 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. for ninth to 12th grades. The principal is Shel Hanser, and the school phone number is 245-6651.

    Daily hot lunch costs $2.75 for students, 40 cents for students eligible for reduced-price meals and $3.50 for adults. A weekly student lunch plan costs $13.75 or $2 for reduced-price meals. And a 20-day plan is available for students for $55 or $8 for reduced-price lunches. Extra milk costs 60 cents.

    St. Francis Primary preschool classes

    St. Francis Primary, 511 Custer Ave., offers preschool.

    A two-day program for 3-year-olds is available 8:25-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. A three-day program for 4-year-olds meets 8:25-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And a five-day program for 4-year-olds operates 12:20-2:50 p.m. Monday-Friday.

    A child must reach the age of the class requirement by Sept. 10 in order to enroll.

    Before-school care is available for students in preschool through second grade from 6:45 to 7:50 a.m. After-school care includes snacks, indoor and outdoor recreation, crafts and quiet time from 2:50 to 5:30 p.m.

    The school phone number is 254-7548.

    St. Francis Primary elementary classes

    St. Francis Primary also has classes for kindergarten through second grade at 511 Custer Ave.

    Classes are 8:20 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. Before-school and after-school care are available on the same schedule as that listed above for the preschool.

    Lunch costs $2.60 for students, 40 cents for students eligible for reduced-price meals and $3.50 for adults. Students may buy a weekly lunch plan for $13 or $2 for reduced-priced meals, and 20-day student lunch plans are available for $52 or $8 for those on the reduced-price meal plan. Extra milk costs 60 cents.

    The elementary principal is Debra Hayes, and the school phone number is 259-6421.

    St. Francis Intermediate

    The school, at 734 Yellowstone Ave., has classes from 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. Chris Read is the principal at the school, whose phone number is 656-2300.

    The school serves grades 3-5.

    Lunch costs $2.60 for students, 40 cents for students eligible for reduced-price meals and $3.50 for adults. Students may buy a weekly lunch plan for $13 or $2 for reduced-priced meals, and 20-day student lunch plans are available for $52 or $8 for those on the reduced-price meal plan. Extra milk costs 60 cents.

    St. Francis Upper School

    Classes at the school, 205 N. 32nd St., run 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.

    Jim Stanton is principal of the school, which serves sixth through eighth grades. The school phone number is 259-5037.

    Daily lunch costs $2.75 for students, 40 cents for students eligible for reduced-price meals and $3.50 for adults. A weekly student lunch plan costs $13.75 or $2 for reduced-price meals. And a 20-day plan is available for students for $55 or $8 for reduced-price lunches. Extra milk costs 60 cents.

    The Billings Catholic Schools website is www.billingscatholicschools.org.

    Billings parochial schools offer classes

    The Billings area has several schools that offer faith-based education for elementary students and some for preschool and high school.

    Billings Christian School, at 4519 Grand Ave., begins classes on Monday, Aug. 25, for preschool through 12th grade.

    Registration is ongoing, and some classes have waiting lists. Early enrollment is encouraged.

    The school hours are 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with class times varying by grade.

    The school is nondenominational and has hot lunch available for $2.50. Paul Waggoner is school principal. Call 656-9484 or visit www.billingschristianschool.org for more information.

    Central Acres Christian School, at 3204 Broadwater Ave., provides classes for children in preschool and kindergarten through eighth grade.

    The school, sponsored by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, is a Christian school for people of all faiths.

    For registration, call the school from Aug. 18, through the start of school.

    School begins Monday, Aug. 25, with classes from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday. The school does not have hot lunches, but children may use the refrigerator for milk or cold foods or a microwave to warm foods.

    For information, call 652-2119 or 698-3511.

    Mount Olive Lutheran School, 2336 St. Johns Ave., has preschool to eighth-grade classes.

    The school year starts on Tuesday Sept. 2, for all students except preschoolers, who report to school on Wednesday, Sept. 3. Parents may register students at any time.

    Preschool has classes from 8:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or on Tuesday and Thursday. Other sessions are noon-2:45 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday or on Tuesday and Thursday.

    Kindergarten through eighth grade meet 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

    Classes are open to all faiths. No hot lunch is served.

    For information, call 656-2635 or visit www.mountolive.com.

    Trinity Lutheran School, at 2802 Belvedere Drive, begins fall classes for kindergartners through eighth-graders on Tuesday, Aug. 26. Preschool classes start Tuesday, Sept. 2.

    Registration is from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 19. Richard Thomas is principal. Classes run from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hot lunch is offered daily for $3.

    Operated by Trinity Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the school also accepts children of other faiths.

    For information, call 656-1021 or visit www.trinitybillings.org.

  • Clothes on the floor, papers strewn across the room and pencils hiding so they can never be found. The tools are there: Closets, dressers and desks. But they aren’t utilized. Organization is lacking. 

    Some students' rooms can be messy enough during the summer, but with the start of school fast approaching, the addition of school supplies, new clothes and other necessities can mean organization will be put on the back burner.

    For those who don’t have enough time to organize by themselves, there are people like Lisa Silsbee. She is a personal organizer and specializes in, well, organizing people’s lives.

    Silsbee is the owner of Get Organized, a business in which she is the sole employee. She said she has been professionally organizing for around 10 years.

    She is hired by clients who need organization in their lives, but just don’t have the time or the skills to do it themselves. Silsbee organizes everything from closets and cupboards to basements and bedrooms. She also organizes student’s rooms and their school-related supplies.

    “I always find a way to organize things,” Silsbee said. “Everybody can be organized. Even a messy organized is organized in some way.”

    Silsbee said she never tries to organize a space perfectly, because not everyone needs things perfect.

    “I organize around the personality of the client I am helping,” Silsbee said. “People like to be organized. If it’s too perfect, it’s not going to keep getting used. It depends on each person.”

    When it comes to organizing a student’s room and work area, Silsbee said a designated study area is a good idea to keep kids focused.

    “Whether it’s the kitchen table or bed, make sure that’s the student’s area,” Silsbee said. “The study area should have no distractions so students can get their work done.”

    Silsbee said setting a study time is an effective way to keep up a routine for students to devote their studies to.

    In addition to a study space, Silsbee said a place for students to put their backpacks when they come home is a good way to keep track of their stuff.

    “If students fill their backpack with supplies the night before, they can be ready to walk out of the door the next morning,” Silsbee said.

    A master calendar can be a great way to plan daily activities, Silsbee said.

    As far as the actual organization of supplies and schoolwork goes, Silsbee likes to use bins to keep things tidy. She said she likes to reuse a lot of items.

    “I go to secondhand stores and thrift stores to help organize certain items,” Silsbee said. “I use things that you wouldn’t normally think would organize things. It also helps so I don’t stick my clients with a huge bill.”

    Silsbee recommends students have three-ring binders with separators for each subject. Also, separate folders for each subject come in handy. She said separating each class keeps things simple and organized.

    After she is done organizing a space, Silsbee said the client usually keeps up the organization. But Silsbee does return to some clients every few months to maintain the organization.

    Silsbee said she never gets rid of anything she organizes because she always finds somewhere to put it.

  • Montana State University Billings will start holding classes this fall in a new cutting-edge, high-tech classroom that blends new technology and a different approach to student-professor collaboration in its College of Education building.

    It will represent a shift in the way some classes operate, and officials believe it could be a glimpse into the future of education.

    “We’re doing stuff here at Montana State University Billings that is, if not cutting-edge, is riding that wave at the very front,” said Matt Redinger, MSUB’s vice provost for academic affairs.

    The university hopes to have construction completed by the fall for the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year on its first Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) classroom, which uses a teaching method designed to encourage active and group learning and collaboration with the help of technology and a decentralized instructional approach.

    Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, TEAL uses lectures, hands-on work and practice scenarios in a high-tech setting to get students working together.

    “The whole thing is about flexibility, technology and that group learning environment,” said Jason McGimpsey, MSUB’s facilities services director.

    The TEAL classroom at MSUB — it’s just the second school in Montana to build one, after Montana State University in Bozeman — will take up a 1,350-square-foot classroom on the third floor of the College of Education.

    Once completed, it will accommodate as many as 48 students, with groups of six each at eight half-circle tables around the room to encourage working together instead of staring towards the front of the room. Each table will include a computer and a universal device hub for students to link their phones, tablets and laptops, as well as a pair of monitors and a whiteboard for them to share and display their work with each other.

    As for the professor, there won’t be a desk at the front of the room from which he or she can run class. Instead, there will be a centralized podium-type structure that encourages the professor to walk the room and interact with students.

    It will also include a control hub that will allow the professor to display lessons, videos, notes, websites and work being done by the students on screens around the room, including those at student tables.

    “The faculty will be in the middle, wandering the class,” Redinger said. “There won’t be any desks and it’ll be a kind of one-stop tech shop. From the center podium, the faculty member is going to be able to control what is projected on the screen, show what he wants and also bring up anything the students are displaying.”

    The classroom will be equipped with video cameras and screens that will allow distance learning students to attend and participate in classes remotely, as long as they’ve got an internet connection.

    “The potential for the TEAL classroom is immense for bringing in online students,” Redinger said. “Students might still miss that physical interaction, the face-to-face, but they’re still able to be there in the classroom.”

    McGimpsey said the classroom will cost about $200,000 to build, with most of that going towards paint, furniture and electronics. The university is pursuing grants to help offset those costs.

    MSUB has taken a close look at Bozeman’s two TEAL classrooms in building its own, including the use of personal-sized whiteboards along the walls instead of clear ones in front of a multi-colored wall, which students complained was difficult to read from.

    “We’re trying to take those lessons learned and integrate them into ours,” McGimpsey said.

    The classroom will also be available for more traditionally structured classes. Officials at MSUB hope that construction will wrap up in time for the start of the fall semester, but if not, it’ll likely be up and running before the Christmas break.

    And they hope that once that happens, it’ll start a classroom trend that continues.

    “This is our pilot and, depending on how our faculty and students react, we’d like to replicate it elsewhere here on campus,” Redinger said.

  • A calendar hangs on the wall in a corner of Dr. Tasneem Khaleel’s office in Montana State University Billings’ Sciences Building. It’s opened to the month of February 2004.

    “That’s the month where it just stopped,” Khaleel said.

    It’s the month that she took on an interim role as MSUB’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for a few months, giving up her place as a professor teaching students in the process.

    That interim role eventually turned into a permanent job that lasted a little more than a decade, until Khaleel stepped down July 1 as dean to finish her career as a professor of biology in the setting she loves: the classroom.

    “I said to myself, ‘Why did I come here,’” she said. “I came here to teach. What am I doing in the dean’s office?”

    Beginning this fall, Khaleel will shed the dean’s mantle and once again don that of a teacher.

    Her first class back in front of the students will also be her long-time favorite, freshman biology. Khaleel said that entry-level course provides the opportunity to mold students as they figure out what they want to study and to share her enthusiasm and passion for biology.

    “Each time you look at those faces in that freshman biology class, there’s a feeling that you just can’t describe,” she said. “You just have to feel it.”

    In 1971, Khaleel became the first woman to earn a PhD — her’s was in developmental biology — from Bangalore University in her native India. The next year she moved to Pennsylvania, teaching biology at a private college there, before coming to Billings in 1976 to teach at MSUB, then called Eastern Montana College.

    In addition to teaching thousands of students, Khaleel has over the years helped out in MSUB’s grant studies and research department, the modern languages department and chaired the department of science.

    Her former boss, Chancellor Emeritus Ron Sexton, said she was the right person at the right time for the jobs and will once again thrive in the classroom.

    “She made sure students got the best from faculty and in turn faculty got the best from her,” he said in May. “Tasneem is always the first person to tout the success of one of her own. She took great pride in the success of her faculty because she was always one of them. Her return to the classroom and laboratory will be smooth and the students will be the beneficiaries.”

    Her return to teaching also allows Khaleel to refocus on MSUB’s herbarium, a personal project consisting of a collection of preserved plants that she’s grown over the years, from a pair of small wooden cabinets to more than 16,000 specimens filling 20 eight-foot-tall cabinets taking up much of a laboratory room.

    One of her goals for the herbarium is to digitize the entire collection and make each specimen available online through regional and national databases.

    She’ll also resume teaching upper-level courses in the spring, starting with a 300-level plant systematics course.

    Khaleel said that her decision was aided by her belief that the department “is in the best shape I’ve seen it in” during her time at MSUB, something with which colleagues agree.

    “The College of Arts & Sciences is far better off now than any time in the past,” said Stan Wiatr, chair of the department of biological and physical sciences. “Dean Khaleel has raised the level of rigor, excellence and success in the College of Arts & Sciences to a standard that should serve as a model for the entire institution.”

    In her office, Khaleel will spend the summer getting the room ready for the expected flow of new students and more use.

    Maybe she’ll be able to find the time to hang a new calendar as well, but for now, Khaleel is focused that love of biology and teaching into something she can pass on to students.

    “It’s getting somebody as excited about what you do, and your subject, as you are about,” she said. “Anybody can teach an ‘A’ student. But if you can get somebody who failed the first exam and get them up to an by the end, that’s real teaching.”

  • From the time he was 10 years old, Tyler Reed knew he wanted to be an airplane pilot.

    It all started when a family friend, a retired airline pilot who owned his own plane, shared his own enthusiasm for flying with Reed.

    “It kind of sprouted from there, looking at airplanes, studying them, riding in a flight simulator,” said Reed, 22, a 2014 Rocky Mountain College graduate. “It made me know I wanted to pursue a whole career in aviation.”

    Reed’s timing is good. He is joining the aviation industry at a time when it’s facing a pilot shortage, at least on the part of regional airlines. A study released in February by the United States Government Accountability Office said hiring at that level has been a problem.

    “As airlines have recently started hiring, nearly all of the regional airlines that GAO interviewed reported difficulties finding sufficient numbers of qualified entry-level first officers,” the report said.

    The study further said that “imminent retirements, fewer pilots exiting the military, and new rules increasing the number of flight hours required to become a first officer for an airline, could result in a shortage of qualified airline pilots.”

    Dan Hargrove, director of the aviation program at Rocky, agrees that a downsized military is one reason for the fewer number of pilots. He ties the fall of the Iron Curtain and the corresponding decrease of the military to a need for pilots to come from other quarters.

    “It’s not coincidental that programs like ours started the same time the Iron Curtain fell in the late ’80s,” Hargrove said. “The airlines started saying the military is not producing enough pilots for the U.S., so they looked to schools like ours to fill in this extremely large gap.”

    Rocky’s aviation program started in 1988, with its pilot training outsourced until 2002, when it bought its own aircraft. Today, the department boasts 100 students — about 10 percent of the student body.

    About 20 percent of the students major in aviation management and go into management for airports and airlines.

    The other 80 percent of the department’s students major in aeronautical science. Those pilots go to the airlines, military, cargo companies, agriculture and corporations.

    “They come in here with typically no flight experience and some sort of passion, created by an air show, an uncle or something,” Hargrove said. “And four years later, they have the education and flight training to begin their careers, and they do.”

    The most frequent question Hargrove hears from students is whether they’ll get a job.

    “We have never had a graduate who wanted to be a professional pilot not become one,” he said. “And right now, airlines are calling me.”

    Hargrove acknowledged that becoming a pilot isn’t cheap. In addition to college tuition and fees, aviation students have to pay for all the gas they burn, which can tack on $45,000 to $50,000 in expenses for all of the flight training needed to start a career.

    That expense is the same wherever a pilot gets his or her training, he said. But Rocky does have an advantage over some pilot training programs.

    About a year ago Congress required the Federal Aviation Administration to change hiring requirements for airline pilots. A pilot now must have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience to get hired by an airline.

    That requirement holds true for a flight school that isn’t part of a four-year college program. Some two-year college programs qualify for 1,250 hours.

    Students at a four-year program, like Rocky, whose curriculum passes muster, only need to accumulate 1,000 hours of flight experience.

    “That’s about a year less, and their paycheck seniority will be about a year faster,” Hargrove said. “Our students get the best deal because they have the best training, nobody does it better than us.”

    To back up his statement, Hargrove points out that for the past five years, Rocky has been accredited through the Aviation Accreditation Board International, which grants accreditation to college aviation programs. Rocky is one of 27 schools to attain that.

    When airline companies call Hargrove to inquire about potential pilots, their first question is whether Rocky has AABI accreditation.

    “It’s shorthand for excellence,” he said. “It keeps us relevant. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us following best practices.”

    Rocky is also one of a handful of college aviation programs this past year that began working with the FAA on a program called Safety Management Systems, a new approach to aviation safety.

    “It’s the system for how we do safety that keeps it more than just being words on a wall,” Hargrove said. “It becomes part of your culture.”

    Students in the aviation program tend to be traditional college age, although there are also a high number of military vets in their mid-20s. The No. 1 employer of grads out of the program is Sky West Airlines, Hargrove said.

    In April, Rocky signed an agreement with SkyWest for what’s called the SkyWest Pilot Cadet program. More recently, it signed a similar agreement with Cape Air.

    Students who are flight instructors for the college are eligible to apply to the SkyWest program. They go down to the airlines’ Utah headquarters for company orientation, and then they are mentored by SkyWest pilots.

    Once they have the required hours of flight experience and have successfully complete the program, they have a guaranteed interview as a first officer.

    Hazel Sainsbury, a spokeswoman for SkyWest calls the program a “win-win” for the airline and for Rocky. The agreement allows the airline the opportunity to help shape the college’s curriculum, which produces the highest caliber of pilots for SkyWest, she said.

    “The benefit for the schools is the affiliation they have with SkyWest and the access they have in our valuable input from a successful airline,” she said. “It’s mutually beneficial.”

    Reed, a flight instructor for Rocky, has completed 650 of his required 1,000 hours. He is one of first six students admitted to the pilot cadet program, and his goal is the finish up by next March.

    Reed, who graduated in 2010 from Grass Range High School, chose Rocky for its smallness and because he clicked with everyone he met in the aviation program.

    “The whole four years I was there, I always felt I was at home,” he said. “I never felt like I made a bad choice.”

    He sees the cadet program as a way to keep him excited and motivated on the last stretch of his training. He is looking forward to heading to Utah, probably in September, for the orientation and the chance to work with a mentor.

    “It gives you a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

    Reed stays in touch with other aviation graduates who already are working as professional pilots.

    “I hear what a blast they’re having and I can’t wait,” he said. “I wish I could do it tomorrow.”

  • College officials know how critical freshman orientation is.

    “For us, getting them comfortable and well-adjusted that first year increases their likelihood of their returning the second year,” said Katie Carpenter, associate dean of student life at Rocky Mountain College in Billings.

    Orientation for incoming students this year is Aug. 21-24 on the Rocky campus, with classes starting on Aug. 25. It’s early to predict numbers, but the college has planned for and is expecting more than 300 new undergraduates to add to the 570 to 580 returning undergraduate students, said John Clayton, vice president of Enrollment Services.

    On the master’s degree level, the small, private liberal arts college expects 26 students in the master’s of education program, 68 in the physician assistant program and up to 10 in the master of accountancy program.

    Orientation at Rocky has changed from what it once was. For the decade preceding last fall, students were bused off-campus to such places as Camp on the Boulder.

    It gave the students a chance to get to know each other, Carpenter said.

    “But we didn’t necessarily feel we were connecting them to campus and to the community as well as we might be,” she said. “So that’s what brought about the change.”

    The shift to campus also allowed for a focus on academic excellence, she said. Orientation organizers saw success last fall, so they’ll continue in the same direction this year, with a few tweaks in the schedule.

    Orientation kicks off on a Thursday, with students checking in to the dorms, and then, along with their parents, getting a welcome to campus. That includes a talk by President Bob Wilmouth and the longtime tradition of the president’s dinner.

    The second day focuses on academic success. Students are exposed to academic support programs, such as peer mentoring, tutoring and the writing center.

    They meet faculty members and other students enrolled in their same course of study. Then the students take part in their first Campus Compass session, a first-year class that lasts 11 weeks.

    “It’s a course that sets them up for success for the time they’re here,” Carpenter said. “It’s co-instructed by one staff member and two peer members in their sophomore, junior or senior year.”

    Something new this year is a Rocky family night at ZooMontana. All the new students will gather with faculty and staff and their families to enjoy dinner and live music.

    “This is a really good opportunity for us to give the students an example of what we mean when we say ‘Rocky family,’ ” Carpenter said. “We’re constantly talking during admissions that we’re a family, and this will show what that means.”

    The third day focuses on their student experience and engaging in the community. With one of the school’s core themes shared responsibility and stewardship, students all take part in four hours of community service.

    The second half of the day, they get a sneak peek of what it’s like to be a Rocky student, giving them opportunities to sign up for campus clubs and organizations. They also can try out activities, such as rock climbing or bike riding or going to Geyser Park.

    On Sunday they might take a day trip to go hiking or white water rafting, or they may take the day to get settled in. It’s all about having down time for fun or relaxation, Carpenter said.

    The final night also has something new this year, a welcome back family-style dinner for all Rocky students. It’s a way to fold new students into the larger student population, she said.

    But orientation doesn’t end when school starts.

    “We have a student panel planned one evening that first week of classes where they can go and ask returning students questions they have at that point,” she said. “That gives them more time to figure out questions.”

    Campus Compass continues weekly for one hour a week. The focus will continue to be on succeeding in school academically and socially.

    “We address their transition, homesickness, health and wellness and life skills,” Carpenter said.

    Organizing orientation is a collaborative effort, she added, with many staff members hammering out the details. Then all the student leaders involved in the orientation take part in a two-day training retreat off campus to get ready for the new students.

    With so many people involved in the planning and execution of orientation, Carpenter said, the new students “have a chance to see all the people that will be supportive of their experience” at Rocky.

  • Institutions of higher learning offer everything from two-year associate degrees on up in a wide range of fields.

    Some area schools and their schedules are:

    Montana State University Billings

    For information, call 657-2011 or 800-565-6782 or go to www.msubillings.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 31. Residence halls open.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day; offices closed.

    Sept. 3. Classes begin.

    Sept. 5. Late registration fee applies. Students who have not completed fee payment or signed a fee statement before this date will be disenrolled from classes and required to re-register.

    Sept. 11. Last day to register, add classes.

    Sept. 23. Last day to withdraw, drop classes with partial refund.

    Oct. 13. Columbus Day. Classes in session; offices open.

    Oct. 21. Last day to drop classes without instructor permission.

    Nov. 3. Registration for spring semester 2015 begins.

    Nov. 4. Election Day. No classes. Offices closed.

    Nov. 11. Veterans Day. No classes; offices closed.

    Nov. 14. Last day to apply to graduate in spring semester 2015 or in summer semester (if attending ceremony).

    Nov. 18. Last day to drop class with approval of adviser and course instructor.

    Nov. 25-30. Thanksgiving holiday. No classes; offices open Nov. 26 only.

    Dec. 8-11. Final exam week.

    Dec. 11. Final day to withdraw from fall 2014. Semester ends.

    Dec. 12. Residence halls close.

    Dec. 17. Grades due to registrar’s office.

    Spring semester 2015

    Jan. 11. Residence halls open.

    Jan. 14. Classes begin.

    Jan. 16. Late registration fee applies. Students who have not completed or signed a fee statement before this date will be disenrolled from classes and required to re-register.

    Jan. 19. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. No classes; offices closed.

    Jan. 23. Last day to register, add classes.

    Feb. 4. Last day to withdraw, drop classes with partial refund.

    Feb. 16. Presidents’ Day. No classes; offices open.

    Feb. 17. Registration for summer session 2015 begins.

    Feb. 28-March 8. Spring break. No classes.

    March 12. Last Day to drop classes without instructor permission.

    March 16. Registration for fall semester 2015 begins.

    March 20. Last day to apply to graduate summer semester 2015 (if not attending ceremony) and fall semester 2015.

    April 2-5. Spring mini-break. No classes; offices open.

    April 9. Last day to drop a class with approval of adviser and course instructor.

    April 24. University Day. No classes; offices open.

    April 27-30. Final exam week.

    April 30. Final day to withdraw from spring 2015. Semester ends.

    May 1. Residence halls close.

    May 2. Commencement.

    May 6. Grades due in registrar’s office.

    Rocky Mountain College

    For information, call 657-1000 or 800-877-6259, or go to www.rocky.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 25. Classes begin. Internship contracts due.

    Aug. 29. Last day to drop or add classes.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day. No classes.

    Oct. 16-19. Midterm break. No classes.

    Oct. 21. Midterm grades due.

    Oct. 24. Last day to drop classes with a grade of “W.”

    Oct. 27. Advising begins for spring 2015 registration.

    Nov. 3. Online registration opens for spring 2015.

    Nov. 27-30. Thanksgiving break. No classes.

    Dec. 5. Last day of classes.

    Dec. 8-12. Final exams.

    Dec. 16. Final grades due.

    Spring semester 2015

    Dec. 10, 2014. Early validation deadline. Confirm attendance and arrange payment.

    Jan. 5. Classes begin. Internship contracts due.

    Jan. 9. Last day to drop or add classes.

    Jan. 19. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. No classes.

    Feb. 1. Applications for graduation in December 2015 due in Office of Student Records.

    Feb. 28-March 8. Mid-term break.

    March 10. Midterm grades due.

    March 16. Last day to drop classes with grade of “W.”

    March 23. Advising begins for summer and fall registration.

    March 30. Online registration starts for fall 2015. Online registration for summer 2015 open.

    April 3-6. Easter break. No classes.

    April 24. Last day of classes.

    April 27-May 1. Final exams.

    May 1. Baccalaureate.

    May 2. Commencement.

    May 5. Final grades due.

    Yellowstone Christian College

    The college at 1515 S. Shiloh Road changed its name from Yellowstone Baptist College last year. For information, call 656-9950 or visit www.yellowstonechristian.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 12-15. Registration, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

    Aug. 17. Residence halls open.

    Aug. 18-19. Orientation.

    Aug. 20. Food service begins. First day of classes.

    Aug. 29. Last day to register late or drop or add classes.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day holiday.

    Sept. 17-18. Fall Student Fun Days.

    Oct. 13. Midterm grades due.

    Oct. 28. Last day to withdraw from classes with “W.”

    Oct. 31. Fall Festival.

    Nov. 10-14. January and spring-term 2015 pre-registration.

    Nov. 24-28. Thanksgiving break.

    Dec. 8-11. Final exams.

    Dec. 11. Food service ends.

    Dec. 12. Residence halls close.

    Dec. 17. Final grades due

    January term 2015

    Jan. 5. Classes begin.

    Jan. 9. Classes end.

    Spring semester 2015

    Dec. 20, 2014. Application deadline.

    Jan. 8. Residence halls open.

    Jan. 8-9. Registration, new-student orientation.

    Jan. 12. Food service begins. Classes start.

    Jan. 21. Last day for late registration. Last day to withdraw with full refund.

    March 2-6. Spring break.

    March 6. Midterm grades due.

    April 6. Last day to withdraw from classes without penalty.

    April 20-24. Pre-registration for summer and fall 2015.

    April 26. Last day to withdraw from classes.

    May 4-8. Final exam week.

    May 8. Food service ends. Graduation dinner.

    May 9. Residence halls close. Graduation.

    May 15. Final grades due.

    Montana State University

    For information, call 406-994-2452 or 888-MSU-CATS or go to www.montana.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 20-22. New-student orientation.

    Aug. 25. Classes begin.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day. No classes; offices closed.

    Nov. 4. Election Day. No classes; offices closed.

    Nov. 11. Veterans Day. No classes; offices closed.

    Nov. 26-30. Thanksgiving holiday. No classes; offices open Nov. 26 only.

    Dec. 5. Classes end.

    Dec. 8-12. Final exams.

    Dec. 12. Fall semester ends.

    Dec. 13. Fall commencement 2014.

    Dec. 25-26. Christmas holiday; offices closed.

    Spring semester 2015

    Jan. 12-13. Orientation and registration.

    Jan. 14. Classes begin.

    Jan. 19. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. No classes; offices closed.

    Feb. 16. President’s Day. No classes; offices closed.

    March 9-13. Spring break. No classes; offices open.

    April 3. University Day. No classes; offices open.

    May 1. Classes end.

    May 4-8. Final exams.

    May 8. Spring semester ends.

    May 9. Commencement.

    Dawson Community College, Glendive

    For information, call 800-821-8320 or 406-377-3396 or visit www.dawson.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 20. New faculty orientation.

    Aug. 21-22. Faculty in-service.

    Aug. 24. Residence halls open.

    Aug. 25-26. New-student orientation.

    Aug. 27. On-campus classes start.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day. Campus closed.

    Sept. 2. Online classes begin.

    Sept. 3. Fee payment/financial aid disbursement. Last day to add classes via Banner.

    Sept. 4. Last day to add online classes.

    Sept. 10. Last day to drop or add on-campus classes.

    Sept. 17. Last day to drop online classes.

    Oct. 16. Faculty in-service. No classes.

    Oct. 17. Fall break. No classes.

    Oct. 21-22. Midterm grades submitted, posted.

    Oct. 27-31. Pre-registration for graduation candidates.

    Oct. 31. Last day to withdraw from classes.

    Nov. 3. Graduation applications due.

    Nov. 4. Pre-registration begins.

    Nov. 24. Last day to withdraw from online classes.

    Nov. 26-29. Thanksgiving break. Campus closed.

    Dec. 13. Last day of online classes.

    Dec. 15-17. Final exams.

    Dec. 17. End of semester.

    Dec. 18. Residence halls close.

    Dec. 19. Final grades due.

    Spring semester 2015

    Jan. 8-9. Faculty in-service.

    Jan. 11. Residence halls open.

    Jan. 12. New-student orientation. Evening classes begin.

    Jan. 13. On-campus classes begin.

    Jan. 19. Holiday. Campus closed.

    Jan. 20. Online-classes begin. Last day to add classes via Banner.

    Jan. 21. Fee payment/financial aid disbursement.

    Jan. 22. Last day to add online classes.

    Jan. 27. Last day to add or drop on-campus classes.

    Feb. 4. Last day to drop online classes.

    Feb. 16. Holiday. Campus closed.

    March 6. Midterm.

    March 8-9. Midterm grades submitted, posted.

    March 9-13. Spring break. No classes.

    March 25. Last day to withdraw from on-campus classes.

    March 30. Pre-registration opens.

    April 3. No classes; campus closed.

    April 13. Last day to withdraw from online classes.

    May 2. Last day of online classes.

    May 5-7. Final exams.

    May 7. Commencement. End of semester.

    May 8. Residence halls close.

    May 11. Final grades due.

    Miles Community College, Miles City

    For information call 406-874-6100 or 800-541-9281 or visit www.milescc.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 15. Faculty Day, convocation.

    Aug. 18. New-student orientation.

    Aug. 18-19. Nursing orientation. Faculty Day.

    Aug. 20. Classes start for fall session and first mini-session.

    Aug. 26. Last day for late registration or to add classes or drop classes for full refund for first mini-session.

    Aug. 29. Last day for late registration or to add or to drop classes, withdraw for full refund for full fall term.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day. No classes.

    Sept. 10. Fee payment.

    Sept. 26. Late fee added to unpaid student accounts.

    Oct. 6-10. Midterms.

    Oct. 10. Intent-to-graduate forms due.

    Oct. 13. Columbus Day holiday.

    Oct. 14. Classes start for second mini-session.

    Oct. 16-17. Educators Conference. No classes.

    Oct. 22. Last day for late registration for second mini-session or to drop or withdraw from classes with full refund for mini-session.

    Oct. 27. Fee payment for second mini-session.

    Nov. 3. Last day to withdraw, drop classes with no penalty.

    Nov. 11. Veterans Day holiday.

    Nov. 27-28. Thanksgiving break.

    Dec. 3. Last day to withdraw, drop classes.

    Dec. 5. Classes end.

    Dec. 8-11. Final exams.

    Dec. 12. Faculty Day.

    Dec. 16. Final grades due.

    Dec. 24-26. Christmas break.

    Spring semester 2015

    Jan. 7. Faculty returns.

    Jan. 9-13. Faculty Days; convocation on Jan. 9

    Jan. 13. New-student orientation.

    Jan. 14. Classes begin for full session and first mini-session.

    Jan. 19. Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

    Jan. 21. Last day to add classes, for late registration or to drop classes, withdraw for full refund for first mini-session.

    Jan. 23. Intent-to-graduate forms due.

    Jan. 26. Last day for late registration, to add classes or to drop classes, withdraw for full spring session.

    Feb. 5. Fee payment.

    Feb. 16. Presidents’ Day holiday.

    Feb. 18. Late fee added to unpaid student accounts.

    March 2-6. Midterms.

    March 9-13. Spring break. School closed, March 13.

    March 16. Classes start for second mini-session.

    March 20. Last day to register, add or drop or withdraw from classes for full refund for second mini-session.

    March 30. Fee payment for second mini-session.

    April 3. Spring Day. School closed.

    April 6. Last day to withdraw, drop classes with no penalty for full spring term.

    April 30. Last day to withdraw, drop classes.

    May 4. Classes end.

    May 5-7. Final exams.

    May 8. Nurses pinning ceremony. Faculty Day.

    May 9. Commencement.

    May 12. Final grades due for spring term.

    Chief Dull Knife College, Lame Deer

    The 2014-15 academic calendar for the tribal college was not posted at press time.

    For information, call 406-477-6215 or visit www.cdkc.edu.

    Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency

    The 2014-15 academic calendar for the tribal college was not posted at press time.

    For information, call 406-638-3131 or visit www.lbhc.edu.

    Northwest College, Powell, Wyo.

    For information, call 800-560-4692 or visit www.northwestcollege.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 18-19. New faculty orientation.

    Aug. 20. Campus meeting.

    Aug. 21. Residence halls open.

    Aug. 22. Fall walk-in registration.

    Aug. 22-24. New student kick-off weekend.

    Aug. 25. Classes begin.

    Aug. 29. Last day to add full-term and first half-term classes.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day. College holiday.

    Sept. 5. Last day to drop or change to or from audit for full-term and first half-term classes.

    Sept. 19. Last day to withdraw from first half-term classes only.

    Oct. 17. Last day of first half-term classes.

    Oct. 18-20. Fall recess.

    Oct. 20. Grading Day.

    Oct. 21. Second half-term classes begin.

    Oct. 24. Last day to add second half-term classes.

    Oct. 31. Last day to drop or change to or from audit for second half-term classes.

    Nov. 4. Advising Day. Only evening classes meet. Early registration for spring 2015 starts.

    Nov. 14. Last day to withdraw from full-term and second half-term classes.

    Nov. 26-29. 1. Thanksgiving break.

    Dec. 12. Last day of classes.

    Dec. 15-17. Final exams.

    Dec. 18. Residence halls close.

    Dec. 18-19. Grading Days.

    Dec. 22. Final grades due.

    Dec. 22-Jan. 1. Winter holiday. College closed.

    Spring semester 2015

    Jan. 5-15. Intersession.

    Jan. 14-15. Faculty in-service, campus meeting.

    Jan. 16. Residence halls open. New-student orientation. Spring walk-in registration.

    Jan. 19. Equality Day; campus holiday.

    Jan. 20. Classes begin.

    Jan. 26. Last day to add full-term and first half-term classes.

    Feb. 3. Last day to drop or change to or from audit for full-term and first half-term classes.

    Feb. 13. Last day to withdraw from first half-term classes.

    March 13. Last day of first half-term classes.

    March 14-22. Spring break.

    March 16. Grading Day.

    March 23. Second half-term classes begin.

    March 27. Last day to add second half-term classes.

    April 2. Last day to drop or change to or from audit for second half-term classes.

    April 3-6. Spring recess.

    April 14. Advising Day. Only evening classes meet. Early registration for summer and fall 2015 begins.

    April 17. Last day to withdraw from full-term and second half-term classes.

    May 12. Last day of classes.

    May 13-15. Final exams.

    May 16. Graduation.

    May 17. Residence halls close.

    May 18-19. Grading Days.

    May 22. Final grades due.

    Sheridan College

    The college has campuses in Gillette and Sheridan.

    For information about the Gillette campus, call 307-686-9254 or 888-544-5538. For information about the Sheridan campus, call 307-674-6446 or 800-913-9139. The schools share a website at www.sheridan.edu.

    Fall semester 2014

    Aug. 27. Return and welcome.

    Sept. 1. Labor Day. College closed.

    Sept. 2. Student orientation.

    Sept. 3. Classes start.

    Oct. 20-24. Midterm Week.

    Oct. 29. Midterm grades due.

    Nov. 26-28. Thanksgiving break. College closed

    Dec. 15. Last day of classes.

    Dec. 16-19. Final exams.

    Dec. 16-17. Grading days.

    Dec. 24. Professional Flex Day. Grades due.

    Dec. 24-Jan. 2. College closed.

    Spring semester 2015

    Jan. 15. Welcome and return.

    Jan. 20. Orientation.

    Jan. 21. First day of classes.

    Feb. 16. Presidents’ Day. No classes; college open.

    March 9-12. Midterm Week.

    March 16-20. Spring break. No classes. College open March 16-18, closed March 19-20.

    March 25. Midterm grades due.

    April 3-5. Easter break.

    May 12. Last day of classes.

    May 15. Graduation.

  • As back-to-school shopping ramps up this month, the top Internet retailer could be a good gauge for what technology students are buying.

    Students of all ages embrace technology like never before. Recent studies say the average college student owns seven technological devices, such as tablets, computers, smartphones and, of course, video game consoles.

    And today's students have immense buying power -- whether through their own money or their parents' -- controlling more than $100 billion in discretionary spending. So what's a hot item right now?

    Amazon's top-selling computers the second week of July included the Acer Aspire 15.6-inch laptop ($280) at No. 1 and the 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook ($200) in second place followed by the ASUS Transformer 2-in-1 laptop ($400).

    By mid-July, the 15.6-inch Dell Inspirion ($250) replaced the Acer Aspire as the top seller, with the 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook holding second and the HP Chromebook ($200) in third.

    Not familiar with Chromebook?

    Launched in 2011, Chromebooks are laptops using Google Chrome as its operating system. Chromebooks have built-in connectivity and primarily store applications and data material "in the cloud" versus on the device. They are an example of a "thin client," which is a computer or program relying on its server to perform applications.

    Ahead of the 2014 school year, HP is releasing several devices from June to August.

    "Customers have made it clear that they need devices that better adapt to work and play the way they do," said Mike Nash, vice president of Product Management, Consumer Personal Systems, HP in a June 1 press release.

    Among the new models are a few 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combinations such as the 13.3 inch HP Split x2 laptop, which debuted July 16 at $600. HP Envy x360 and the Precision x360 have touchscreens and a swivel hinge that can change the clam-shell laptop style to a stand, tent or tablet.

    The Envy came out in June and the Precision is scheduled for release Sunday. Both cost more than $600.

    In picking the "right" device, there seems to be no wrong answer.

    It comes down to more of a matter of memory capacity, the student's course of study and preference.

    Local colleges offer guidelines on ideal device memory capacity rather than pointing students toward a specific model.

    UNH recommends different combinations of hardware and software based on a student's major.

    The only university department listing tablets as appropriate for a primary device this year is the Thompson School of Applied Science.

    Rivier University Chief Information Officer Bill Schleifer said the school doesn't recommend a specific brand of computer to avoid putting additional financial pressure on students.

    In terms of devices, Schleifer's recommendations were oriented toward laptops.

    "We are primarily a PC school, but we support Macs as well," he said. "If a student or parent is going to buy a new laptop, we suggest only that they purchase one with 8GB of RAM ... and as much disk space as possible -- at least 500GB. When it comes to screen size or type of screen, again, it's whatever they can afford and with which the student is comfortable," he said.

  • Families expect to spend more on school items than they did last year, even though more than 80 percent say the tough economy still affects their spending decisions, according to the National Retail Federation's annual back-to-school survey.

    More than a quarter of families plan to take advantage of late-summer deals and shop one to two weeks before school starts, up from 21.8 percent who did so last year, the NRF report said. The percentage of procrastinators who wait until the first week of school or after classes start to shop is expected to grow to 7.7 percent from 5.4 percent last year.

    The early birds stocking up more two months before school starts have dropped to 22.5 percent from 23.9 percent.

    Total spending for back-to-school is expected to reach $26.5 billion, down slightly from last year because there are fewer students in households, the report said. Back-to-college spending, however, is expected to grow to $48.4 billion, up from $45.8 billion last year.

    Families with children in grades kindergarten through 12 plan to spend an average of $669.28 in back-to-school apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year, the survey found. Electronics and basic school supplies lead the spending boost. Families with high school students spend the most.

    Families with college students plan to spend $916.48 million on dorm furniture, school supplies, electronics and more, up 10 percent from last year.

    With 81.1 percent of survey respondents saying the economy will affect their spending plans, up from 80.5 percent last year, families also intend to buy more store brand or generic items and shop online to find deals and compare prices. A quarter of families said they will make do with the items they have, up from 23.7 percent who said so last year.

    In an ongoing trend, teens are spending more of their own money on back-to-school shopping and kids increasingly are influencing their parents' purchasing decisions.

    Teenagers plan to spend an average of $34.40 of their own money, up from $30.13 last year, totaling $913 million.

    Almost 10 percent of parents say their child influences 100 percent of the back-to-school shopping decisions, up from 7.6 percent who said so last year.

  • There's a reason that schools shut down for 10 weeks every summer. But it's not a good one.

    The reason is because that's the way it's always been done, or at least that's the way it's been done since the early 20th century.

    If nothing else had changed since 1910, continuity of the school calendar would make sense. But there is very little that hasn't changed, and we are hurting children and families and wasting tax dollars every year, when we shut down schools for the summer.

    Learning should be a year-round endeavor and schools should be part of students' lives even during the summer. It's time to have a serious conversation about a 21st century school schedule that matches 21st century lives.

    In September most students will go back to school having lost two months of grade-level proficiency in math computation skills. It can take until early November before the class is where it was during the previous June.

    Additionally, low-income students can expect to lose two months of grade level reading achievement, while their middle class peers will stay where they were or make modest gains. Over the years, this discrepancy grows wider, and the lengthy summer vacation becomes another way to enforce class differences.

    Most parents work, so unless they can afford expensive day care or camp tuition, they have to leave their kids up to their own devices. Some kids will take the opportunity for constructive, healthy activities, but many will not. Many kids get bored. It's not a coincidence that childhood obesity increases during the summer months when you would expect there to be more opportunities for exercise.

    The problems caused by a long summer break are not news to the educators -- they even have a name for it "the summer slide." Many are already doing things about it.

    Portland has an ambitious summer learning program, using the federally funded summer lunch program to draw children to libraries, parks and activities. The program has set the goal of reaching 750 kids this summer, which would be an achievement, but is still only about a tenth of the school district's children.

    The arguments against changing the school calendar are not compelling.

    Some students use the summer break to work and make money. Some students use the time to go to camps, participate in sports leagues or have other broadening experiences. Families are used to having July and August to schedule vacations, and it would disrupt their plans, especially if siblings are in schools with very different schedules.

    None of those objections stack up against the long-term costs of wasted months in school and increasing opportunity gap between rich and poor. Neither is the cost of staffing schools during at least part of the summer.

    What can be done? Some states have experimented with a system in which a 180-day school year is divided into 45-day sessions followed by 15-day breaks, retaining a 30-day summer vacation. That kind of system would not add much cost to the typical Maine school year, but minimizes the amount of time students have to lose ground.

    A better solution would be adding to the length of the school year with a summer session that would not only stop kids from backsliding but create opportunities for them to advance faster and farther.

    Motivated students could graduate early and take college level work. Kids who have fallen behind would have time to catch up.

    A century ago, school was not mandatory, mothers worked in the home and there were plenty of jobs in factories, farms, fishing and the woods for people without much education. Those days are long gone.

    Summer in Maine is a treasure, but so is the opportunity to get an education. When evaluating the best way to deliver one, we ought to be reconsidering the 10-week summer vacation, a holdout from a bygone era.

  • Alyssa Kimble, a soon-to-be sixth-grader in White Plains, N.Y., says she uses the desk in her bedroom for "everything" — creating lesson plans for her make-believe school, writing stories and storing stuff.

    Everything, that is, except homework.

    "Usually, my desk is covered with things, a computer isn't nearby and my mom isn't there to help me," Alyssa says.

    So she prefers doing homework at the kitchen table.

    Although bedroom desks remain common, many kids don't use them for their intended purpose. Thanks to laptop computers and more casual living spaces, they often opt to do homework in kitchens and family rooms, on couches or on beds, turning their desks into depositories for books, toys and crafts.

    What that means for study habits depends on who's doing the work, educators and parents say.

    "I could always get my homework done wherever I was. But some kids, especially if they have ADHD or another disability, can benefit from doing homework at a specified location like a desk because it tells them, 'This is the spot where I focus,'" says Ellen Pape, a La Grange, Illinois, school reading specialist.

    "Separating it from other locations gives kids more of a straightforward definition of expectations," she says.

    Melissa Kaufman of Santa Clara, California, says that where her daughters — Rebekah, 14, and Sarah, 11 — do their homework reflects their different needs and study habits.

    Kaufman bought Rebekah a desk several years ago because letting her work at the kitchen table in their small house became too hard on the rest of the family. "It meant nobody could do anything in the kitchen or living room until homework was done because it would be distracting," she says.

    But having "a nice big desk surface" did little to change that. "I don't think she did her homework at her desk more than once," Kaufman says. Initially, Rebekah resisted being isolated from the rest of the family. And although today Rebekah does do homework in her room, it is usually on her bed. The desk is where she puts "the four outfits she tried on earlier that day and rejected."

    But Kaufman says she doesn't fight it. "She has still managed to get excellent grades, despite what I would consider less than stellar study habits and environment, so we have to let her go with what she is comfortable with," she says.

    Sarah, on the other hand, "needs much more help and encouragement to get her homework done, so doing it in isolation in her room is not really an option" — meaning she's back at the kitchen table, Kaufman said. Sarah's desk has suffered a fate similar to her sister's; it's covered with piles of books, art supplies and knickknacks.

    Tami Mount, a New York-area educational consultant, says it's important for children to have a quiet, dedicated workspace, but it doesn't matter where that is.

    "All the tools they need to do their homework, like scissors, rulers, erasers and pencils, should be organized in a place they can be easily retrieved. You don't want to spend 15 minutes looking for tape," she says.

    But some kids work better in an environment where there is, say, music playing or a parent nearby, than isolated at a desk, Mount says.

    "A quiet desk, a busy kitchen, Starbucks or the living room floor. Like adults, kids find a place that is comfortable and productive," she says. "And if the living room floor is not proving productive, try something else."

  • NEW YORK — A generation ago, students on semester abroad were practically incommunicado, aside from airmailed letters and one or two calls home. These days, from the minute the plane lands, kids studying overseas are connected with home via Skype, Facebook, and messaging apps like Viber and WhatsApp.

    Has technology altered semester abroad by making it impossible to immerse yourself in another culture? Or does staying in touch simply increase comfort levels, easing both homesickness and parental worries?

    Jane Tabachnick of Montclair, New Jersey, remembers airmailing letters to her parents when she studied in Paris for nine months at age 21, long before the cellphone era. “I knew they were worried and that they’d be waiting by the mailbox,” she said. “It seemed like an eternity between letters.”

    It was different when Tabachnick’s 21-year-old daughter lived in Russia and Paris as part of her studies at Rutgers University. They often conversed by Skype or GoogleChat. “My daughter is very mature and level-headed and I’m not a big worrier, but I’m a parent, and she’s across the world, and it was just so easy to be in touch,” Tabachnick said.

    On the other hand, she said, the less she heard from her daughter the better, and not because she didn’t miss her: “When I hear from her a little less, I know she’s out having fun.”

    Robbin Watson was forced to give up screen time with the home crowd when her laptop was damaged during a semester in Italy six years ago, when she was 19.

    “I was devastated at first, wondering to myself, ‘How will I know what’s going on at home? How will I Skype my friends?’” she recalled.

    But as time went on, her experience in Rome “drastically changed. I began to go out more, no longer running home from class to hop online. I no longer thought about what was going on at college and soon, I began to not even care.”

    Looking back, she’s grateful that her laptop was damaged. Her advice for semester abroad: “Get rid of your smartphone. The whole point of studying abroad is to immerse yourself in the culture, the people, the language. Once you have Skype, Facebook and constant calls from parents, I think it really takes away from the experience and becomes a huge distraction.”

    Staying in touch is important to Daniele Weiss, 19, a New York University student who spent spring semester in Florence and is now in Israel for the summer. “My mom needs to hear from me every night before I go to sleep,” she said.

    From Italy, six hours ahead of her parents, she’d call in the morning before her dad went to work, and then text throughout the day. She said most of her fellow American students also “stayed in contact with everybody from home. It was very comfortable and so easy. It’s not like I felt like I was missing out on the immersion. But I wanted to share things with my mom.”

    She did get one snail-mailed letter in Italy from a friend back home. “That was really exciting,” she said. “Nobody does that any more. So that was a really cool moment. I Facebook-messaged her as soon as I got it.”

    Jason Fischbach, 24, studied in Sydney, Australia, during his senior year at Babson College in 2010-2011, and stayed in touch with family through Facebook and Skype, though he tried to limit it: “I was able to keep myself from getting homesick, without really watering down the experience.”

    But he added that others did fall into the “traps” of too much screen time: “People would get back from class and hop on Skype/Facebook with family and significant others. People would skip social outings or classes to reach back out to people at home. Evenings would be spent on social media.”

    Technology helped, though, when his grandfather died during his months away. He took part in the funeral via Skype and emailed a eulogy home, which was read out loud by his brother.

    “I probably would have had a different, and possibly better, experience if I’d completely disconnected for the whole time,” he said, but his family’s mourning “was not an event that I would have been comfortable missing out on.”

    Annmarie Whelan, a spokeswoman for Forum Education Abroad, which develops standards for education abroad programs, doesn’t advise parents on how often to communicate with kids overseas. Some kids are more independent than others, she said. But she acknowledges that students miss out if they spend too much time online with folks back home.

    On the positive side, she added, some students gain confidence dealing with unfamiliar situations if they can process the experience with someone they know.

    Another plus: It’s now easier to maintain relationships with host-country families, friends and professors when semester abroad is over. The technology, Whelan said, “has dissolved the distinctions between before, during and after studying abroad.”

  • When it's time to start stocking the school backpack, it's easy to just grab a stack of plain, boring notebooks.

    But since kids have to tote these things to and fro every day, why not trade the standard-issue ones for something snazzy and personalized?

    There are plenty of eye-catching options to buy or to make yourself.

    At Zazzle and Cafepress, you can upload favorite images and decorate custom journals and notebooks with different fonts and colors. There are also fun backgrounds like chevrons, animal prints, sports themes and nature motifs that can be jazzed up with monograms or catchphrases. (www.zazzle.com ; www.cafepress.com )

    Frecklebox offers cute, 50-page, wide-ruled spirals printed with owls, hearts, flames, robots, camouflage, flowers and other kid-centric patterns for grades 2-8. They can be personalized with names or initials in a variety of styles. (www.frecklebox.com )

    My Paper Monkey's got some fun designs, including sporty cartoon dinosaurs for the younger set, and star, splatter and checkerboard designs for older kids. Names can be ordered in cool fonts that resemble graffiti, industrial stamps or pretty, Parisienne-style script. (www.mypapermonkey.com )

    Add your name to a chalkboard image of inspiring words on a notebook at Tinyprints, or choose from designs like patchwork, meadow or feathers. (www.tinyprints.com )

    If your kids are crafty, consider making a notebook or journal from scratch using recycled paper. Magazines, scrapbook paper and maps make good cover art, and can be cut into geometric shapes or left intact; apply to chipboard or cardboard, add blank or lined paper, and secure. Online tutorials suggest binding them with staples, duct tape, brads, book rings, wire, elastic or stitchery. (www.babbledabbledo.com )

    Yarn and ribbon make pretty patterns on a plain book. Create stripes of color, or make a bunch of little bows or loops as embellishment. You can affix bandanas or cloth napkins in zingy designs. Glue on buttons, sequins or shells.

    Or give a composition book about three coats of chalkboard paint and add a bulldog clip to hold some chalk so you can carry an always-ready art space.

    Find some craft pipe cleaners and create a colorful, textured notebook cover. Or add a rainbow of rubber bands to a notebook cover to hold clips and pencils.

    Is there some material or felt lying around the house? Cover a book with soft velvet and add a stamped design of leaves for a luxe little book you'll love to get to work in. Or if you like to sew, cut out a felt cover and embroider it closed around the edges; add a pocket for an eraser or pen. (www.spoonful.com )

    Got a favorite cereal, cookie or other food that comes in a box? Cut it up and grab the Mod Podge adhesive to make fun notebook covers that will remind kids that home, and snack time, await at the end of the school day. (www.mypaperpony.blogspot.com )

  • The words hungry kids heading home from school hate most? "Have a piece of fruit."

    Afterschool snacks are one of the toughest terrains for parents to navigate. The kids want a treat, but parents — mindful that dinner is just around the corner — want to keep it healthy. So we decided to come up with a healthy, filling snack that kids would still consider a treat.

    These chocolate and granola covered frozen bananas are a healthy snack that eat like a frozen pop with a hit of chocolate. If your kids aren't into granola, you could substitute chopped nuts, crushed whole-grain pretzels or even raisins or dried cranberries.



    Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus freezing

    Servings: 4

    1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate bits

    2 tablespoons orange juice

    2 bananas

    1 cup granola

    Line a small pan with waxed paper.

    Bring a small saucepan of water (about 1 inch) to a simmer. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate bits and orange juice. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water. Stir continuously until melted and smooth.

    Peel the bananas, then cut each banana in half crosswise. Insert a fork into one end of each piece. Dip each banana into the chocolate mixture, using a spoon to scoop the chocolate over the banana to make sure it is completely covered. Roll the coated banana in the granola, then place the forked and coated bananas on the prepared pan. Freeze.

    Nutrition information per serving: 350 calories; 130 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 14 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 59 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 33 g sugar; 5 g protein; 10 mg sodium.

  • Janine Boldrin Gwinn has become an experienced house-hunter and an expert packer of boxes. Seven times, this Army wife has managed to move her family from one place in the U.S. to another, improving the process a little more each time. But the search for schools for her children is never easy.

    How can a parent choose the right school when it's not possible to visit the potential choices? As we've become a more mobile and global society, many families now face this challenge as they move cross-country or even internationally.

    The decision is ultimately a personal one, but several strategies can make the process go more smoothly:


    Boldrin Gwinn's search usually starts online at GreatSchools.com, where she compares rankings for schools in her destination city. She has noticed that the rankings can fluctuate frequently, however, so she doesn't eliminate schools solely on the basis of that assessment.

    Her next step is to explore the schools' websites. A school with a well-organized, informative website will likely be a place that communicates effectively with parents. Is the site kept up-to-date? Do teachers have pages or sections that might give you a sense of their methodology or approach to students?

    Just keep in mind that a school's website may have been designed with marketing in mind. Some of the positive buzzwords you see may be the work of a good publicist more than an accurate reflection of the school's approach to teaching.


    Babette Maxwell, who has moved her family frequently during her husband's Navy career, also does extensive online research about new schools. And she asks people living in the community where she's heading.

    If you are moving for a job, ask your employer to connect you with families who have children in the same age group as yours. Use Facebook to explore community groups or other family organizations in your new area; you can post a query on that page about schools.

    The Facebook pages of schools can also be a great resource for learning about the community of parents there, the issues parents are discussing and how the school's administration interacts with them.


    Maxwell finds it practical to choose schools for her sons before selecting the location of her new home. Finding the right school, she says, can much be tougher than finding a suitable home.

    Terri Bridgwater agrees: When she moved cross-country with her children, she selected a school that was a fairly long commute from her new home. The school turned out to be a great choice, but the commute was difficult.

    If you don't find a good school in your initial search, Bridgwater suggests widening the search area. You may find something perfect just a bit further away.


    "There is so much you can tell about a school by talking to the front desk," Boldrin Gwinn says. She calls with a list of questions, noting not only how they are answered but how the school staff interacts with her.

    The most academically impressive school may not be the best school for your child.

    "You're seeking a school where your kids will be accepted and embraced," Boldrin Gwinn says, so consider your children's personalities and interests as you research schools. If music is important, for example, you may want to reach out to the music teacher or band director to ask about the program. If it's athletics or art class, pay extra attention to that.

    How long will you be at your new location? If it's just a year or two and your children are young, then the school district's SAT scores may matter less than the personal impression you get of the teachers.


    If it's hard to get a clear picture of a school from phone calls and online research, consider visiting in person, even if it involves an expensive trip or inconvenient scheduling.

    Bridgwater did that when she moved cross-country with her family, and was glad she did. It can be difficult to get a feel about some schools, she says, until you walk around in the building and meet the teachers.


    You may find the perfect school but discover that enrollment is full. If so, no need to settle permanently for second best. Consider picking a temporary option and then moving the kids to your desired school the next year. It does involve a second adjustment, but if you'll be in the area for several years or indefinitely, Maxwell says, "it's worth the effort."

    And if your chosen school disappoints you, she says, "keep hunting once you're there."

  • Success in school often depends on how well a student manages to organize everything from demanding schoolwork to a dizzying array of after-school activities to technological distractions.

    That's a lot to ask of a child, or even of busy parents.

    For those with disposable income, a new breed of experts is stepping in to help: professional organizers for kids.

    "Nine years ago, when I started Order Out of Chaos, I had to explain to people what a professional organizer was. Now, it's not what's an organizer, but who's your organizer?" says Leslie Josel of Mamaroneck, New York, who offers to help kids manage everything from elementary school to dorm life.

    "As parents, we walk into the house and say, 'Go get your soccer cleats,' 'Go get your dance things,' 'Do your homework,'" says Josel. But organization is like a muscle, she says, "and if you're the one spewing all those instructions out, the only one working out that brain muscle is you. You're ending up nagging instead of training."

    Ask children before they head out the door what they think they will need for the day. "After a while, it becomes as much of a habit as brushing teeth or putting on a seat belt," Josel says.

    And come up with systems for paper and time management at home and at school. "If it takes your child more than two steps to do something, they're not going to do it," she says.

    Many of the hundreds of professional organizers nationwide are mothers or former teachers who have helped children deal with "executive dysfunction," the technical term for the problem. Some earn certification from groups such as the New Jersey-based National Association of Professional Organizers or the St. Louis-based Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

    Often, professional organizers are hired to help kids with special needs. But they are increasingly invited to speak at parent-teacher associations and community groups to offer general tips.

    "Academic tutors help with science or math ... but the study skills part of the picture has been a no man's land," says Kathy Jenkins, who runs the Richmond, Virginia-based company The Organizing Tutor.

    Some tips from her and other experts:


    At home, each student in the household should have a "launching pad" and portable storage system. A launching pad can be a bench or box by the front door or bedroom door that holds everything that goes in and out of the house: library books, backpacks, cell phone, soccer cleats.

    "For this population, the more time they spend looking for something, the less remaining stamina they have to do what they need to be doing," says Josel.

    The portable storage station should be a clear box with everything needed to get homework done.

    "It's essential to have one box per student, not one per household," Josel says. "An elementary student might have glue and colored pencils, while a middle schooler might need a Spanish dictionary and a calculator."

    Boxes should be labeled — but not by parents — with the child's name and a list of contents. "Have your child fill the box and label it. It's part of the ownership process," Josel says.

    Boxes should be portable because although some students work happily at the same desk each evening, for others, "it really helps if you change workplaces not only every day, but for every study subject," says Josel.


    Although organizing systems vary with the individual's learning style, some frequent recommendations for students are:

    — Use a planner that includes after-school activities as well as homework assignments.

    — Use reinforced binder paper, Jenkins says, so papers don't fall out or get crumpled because one hole is ripped.

    — Vertical, clear-plastic student envelopes can hold a textbook, notebook and papers so that nothing is forgotten. They're easily pulled out of backpacks or lockers, can be color-coded, and are easy to carry between classes.

    — A binder with attached accordion file can be used for all subjects or for each subject. They come in various colors and have room to file papers in a hurry, so they don't get lost.

    — For time management, organizers often recommend a timer and a vibrating watch.






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