For good reason, Noblesville Chamber of Commerce President Bob DuBois understands why the State of the Schools is always one of the year’s well-attended luncheons.
Noblesville Schools Supt. Beth Niedermeyer addressed a variety of topics Oct. 28 at the Noblesville Schools Community Center.
“Some of our audience (doesn’t) necessarily have students in schools, so it’s a chance for them to get an update if they are not connected directly to the schools,” DuBois said. “We think it’s important for everyone in the community to learn what’s happening in the schools because the schools are vital to their property values, their ability to meet the workforce demand that is out there. We see the schools as a partner with the Chamber in so many initiatives. They are the workforce development pipeline. We want them to be successful. We need them to be successful and they are successful. This is a good chance to share the good news and also share some of the challenges they are facing as a district.
“The No. 1 driver of economic development is our quality of schools. If you can’t attract and retain a quality workforce that have children, then we don’t have successful businesses. Job 1 is to keep our schools strong.”
Niedermeyer’s address detailed some of the district’s academic-related highlights, including: A-rated district; academic data above state and national averages; national recognition for STEM, Advanced Placement and music education; state and national recognition for robotics, band, choir, theater, speech, writing and journalism; NHS graduates among the highest scholarship and advanced college credit earners in the state; the largest high school internship program in the state with almost 300 students and 120-plus businesses; and NHS biomedical student research being considered for publication in a professional medical journal.
Niedermeyer said the district launched a new alternative education program called the Miller Success Academy.
“It’s designed to help students who weren’t finding success in a traditional high school,” Niedermeyer said. “Students have additional support and flexibility as they work to complete their high school diploma.”
Niedermeyer said to increase transparency about what is being taught at all grade levels, details about the curriculum are on the website, noblesvilleschools.org.
“We have a diverse student population with varying needs, including 18 percent of our students who have physical/emotional learning disabilities and 17 percent of our students who are academically gifted,” Niedermeyer said.
More than 50 languages are spoken in the schools, Niedermeyer said.
“The top five languages, other than English, are Spanish, Arabic, Punjabi, Vietnamese and Chinese,” Niedermeyer said.
Niedermeyer said STEM is highlighted in Project Lead The Way courses.
“The course enrollment has increased by 56 percent in the last five years,” she said. “Noblesville Schools offers 14 different Project Lead The Way courses for high school and middle school, including classes such as robotics, biomedicine, cyber security and aerospace engineering. We’re also one of the few districts in the state to offer Project Lead The Way courses from (kindergarten to 12th grade) with elementary students exploring flight, engineering, robotics and more.”
Niedermeyer said the district has added STEM with an art component to the rotation in elementary schools. Students work on subjects such as robotics, weather, planets, construction and physics.
Niedermeyer thanked Metro Plastics for the robot it donated to NHS.
“It’s been a game changer for our students’ programming and advanced manufacturing skills building,” she said.
Safety measures added
Niedermeyer said thanks to the 2018 referendum, the district has funded 49 new safety initiatives. They are detailed on the noblesvilleschools.org website.
“We are grateful to the city and Noblesville Police Dept. for partnering on the school resource officer program,” she said.
Niedermeyer said the district collaborated on a vulnerability assessment that all school resource officers will complete on a regular basis. The assessment identifies and evaluates all the potential risks and includes a safety threat assessment.
“It’s a systematic approach to investigate and evaluate student threats led by a multi-disciplinary team, including an administrator, a school resource officer, a social worker and a counselor,” Niedermeyer said.
New stadium gets name
Niedermeyer used the Chamber of Commerce event as an opportunity to unveil Beaver Materials Stadium as the name for the high school’s new football and multipurpose facility. The naming rights deal between Noblesville Schools and Beaver Materials is valued at $250,000 over five years. The stadium will open for the track and field season in April 2022 and host a grand opening July 29, 2022.
Niedermeyer provided updates on other construction projects, all of which will be funded through bonds and will not use referendum dollars or raise the tax rate.
New tennis courts are being built across the street from Noblesville East Middle School to accommodate the need for additional middle school and high school courts.
Expansion projects at North, Hazel Dell and Noble Crossing elementary schools are complete, providing much-needed additional space. Promise Road Elementary has had more growth than expected and will be next for expansion projects.
Funding for COVID-19
The district received $3.9 million in federal funding to assist with COVID-19 expenses. Niedermeyer said the funds were spent on staffing, academic support programming, curriculum, instructional supplies and professional learning.
“Our goal throughout the entire pandemic has been to keep students and staff healthy and in school,” Niedermeyer said.
The district has an overall staffing shortage, with 50 vacancies to be filled. Available positions include teachers, classroom assistants, food service personnel, bus drivers and custodians.