As children in the Menlo Park City School District headed back to classes on Aug. 20, the district is moving ahead with the planning for a new campus for Laurel School at the old O'Conner School site.
The plans are nearly ready to submit for state approval in September and contractor selection is underway.
Families will see some changes at the schools this year.
At Oak Knoll and Encinal schools, doors have been put in between several classrooms to make collaboration among classes easier. At Encinal, some teachers will "co-teach" work with other teachers in a classroom for portions of the day.
Trees were planted at Oak Knoll and Encinal schools to provide shaded outdoor space for students, while at Oak Knoll, paving stones were added to make an outdoor learning space.
The district hired a new director of technology, Al Hart, on June 30. Since 1999 Mr. Hart has been director of technology at the Reed Union School District in Tiburon. Previously he worked in the technology department at the Marin County Office of Education in San Rafael.
In addition to Mr. Hart, 19 new teachers are joining the district.
Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said the district's guidance and wellness programs will increase this year, due to a partnership with the Sequoia Healthcare District, which will provide funding for a "wellness coordinator" who will be in charge of school health programs.
The district will increase and update programs that address the appropriate use of social media, emotional health and conflict resolution, the superintendent said.
Another new program for the school year is a pilot "full inclusion classroom" project in one third-grade class at Laurel School. Four credentialed teachers, including a special education teacher, will join forces to work with a diverse class of students.
Several summer programs helped to prepare for the new school year, including a new "Kick-Off-to-Kindergarten" program designed to help incoming kindergartners who did not attend preschool or are learning English, Superintendent Ghysels said.
During the summer, students took nature hikes, set up camp in the school yard, sang campfire songs, created camping recipes, investigated native plants and animals and participated in field trips to the library and museums. Academics and lessons focused on developing literacy and language skills through writing in journals and reading items related to the outdoors.