New School Year For FWCS

By Peter Ambrose
By Scott Sarvay

August 23, 2010 Updated Aug 23, 2010 at 5:37 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Nearly 32,000 students will pour into schools across the Fort Wayne Community School district this morning to kick off the first day of the 2010-2011 school year.

Junior at Wayne High School Austin Lewis says, “We might have a lot of different changes in the school, like, I know we have more classes and everything. But, I hope we make a lot more friends and I hope there's a lot of communication now.”

And many of those students will be riding the district's fleet of more than 300 buses to and from school. Motorists should watch for the extra traffic on the roads now and for children at their bus stops.

FWCS Superintendent Doctor Wendy Robinson greeted students as they got off the bus Monday morning at Northrop and Snider High Schools.

Robinson says she's pleased that teachers and students are re-adjusting to the school day.

She says she's looking forward to this school year and thinks it will be a little more "normal."

Robinson says, “I think we're getting back to normal in terms of our planning and our focus on academics. I don't think we're ever going to get back to normal in terms of our finances. And at some point you can't focus on that or worry about it. We do five-year projects. We have a pretty good idea of what we're not going to have to work with. But what we do try to focus on, is what we do have.”

This has been a big year of change for the FWCS. Administrators are in the process of restructuring 11 schools, identified as L.E.A.D. schools to improve their academic performance. Teachers were shuffled around as part of that process.

FWCS School Board President Mark GiaQuinta says,”It truly is unprecedented, not just in Fort Wayne or in Indiana, but in the United States of America. Charlotte is changing seven schools we're doing eleven. And when I say changing, we have hand picked the staff in these eleven schools. The building leadership teams have all changed. The idea is to create a culture of excellence in these eleven schools, after which, we'll use this model and we'll transfer it to the entire district.”

Earlier this year, district leaders had to cut $15 million from their budget due to education funding reductions by the state. Those cuts resulted in the layoffs of about 90 teachers and the closures of Elmhurst High School and Pleasant Center Elementary School.

Elmhurst students were transferred, and most will start this school year at Wayne, Northrop, North Side and South Side HIgh Schools.

The FWCS also overhauled custodial services to help reduce spending. The company Sodexo took over the service after administrators cut their staff of about 250 janitors. Officials said hiring Sodexo saved them about $4 million. About 100 of the laid off janitors were re-hired by Sodexo, but at lower wages.

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