March 2018 Principal Chat: Cedar Park Awaits

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Our March Principal Chat featured special guest, Cedar Park principal, Dr. Shannon Anderson, who came to provide the scoop about big, scary middle school.  Dr. Anderson has been taking her show on the road to the various feeder elementary schools to better engage with upcoming parents.

So.  Middle school. The first thing to realize is that having a child move onto middle school is like reliving the first day of kindergarten. All the same fears apply. Will there be bullies? How will they get to the bus? Will they find the bathroom?

Sadly, those fears are exponentially amplified because clearly public middle schools are cesspools of hormones, online bullying, drugs, and toxic friendships.  I mean… amiright??

To keep this conversation moving, let’s switch to a quick and dirty FAQ to answer everyone’s burning questions and give some factual answers.

How big is Cedar Park?  Like 6000 kids, right?

Cedar Park hovers around 1000 students. There are seven feeder elementary schools– Bonny Slope, Cedar Mill, Terra Linda, William Walker, West TV, Ridgewood, and a portion of Raleigh Park.  Bonny Slope is the largest feeder school, with nearly 200 more total students than any other school that feeds into CPMS. Next year’s numbers have similar projections for CPMS, even with the loss of sixth grade Summa next year.

How does CPMS roll out the welcome wagon?  

Cedar Park will host a “Wolf Day” in mid to late August, prior to school starting.  Students and parents will get schedules, have pictures taken, and have an opportunity to purchase prepackaged school supplies, PE shirts, etc, which makes back to school sooooo much easier. Seventh and eighth graders will be issued chromebooks, but sixth graders won’t get theirs until the third or fourth week of school.  

Helpful hint: Complete your student enrollment forms and pre-purchase your chromebook insurance and school supplies ONLINE AT HOME BEFORE COMING.  See section on Parentvue below.

CPMS also holds a new student picnic, usually the week before school starts.  WEB leaders (eighth grade leadership program) will be on hand to give student tours.  Now that your precious hooligan has their schedule, they can quite literally practice walking to and from each class, plus find the bathroom.

The first day of school, Monday, 8/27/18, will be sixth graders only. They better enjoy the back of the bus because they won’t be sitting that far back again for awhile. The sixth graders are divided into small groups and the WEB leaders lead them through various ice breakers and whatnot (middle school awkwardness at its finest).  They go to each class on a shortened schedule & basically get the lay of the land before Day 2, which includes the entire school.

Will my sweet cherub be in any proximity to those terrifying man-childs called eighth graders?  They all look 18.

Well, your sixth grader will be on the bus with eighth graders.  However, once at school, the sixth grade has their own hallway that’s home to most of their core classrooms and their lockers. Also, all the grades have separate bell schedules, so they will not cross paths with older students while switching classes.  However, their advisory group is mixed ages, so there will be seventh and eighth graders there.

Advisory. Riiiight…. tell me again, now… that’s like their homeroom?

Yes, you could say that.  Advisory meets for 25 minutes twice a week.  They will have the SAME ADVISOR for all three years at Cedar Park, which gives kids a chance to build a years-long relationship with a faculty member.  All teachers, admins, and counselors have advisory groups, which keeps the groups as small as possible.

But what do they DO in advisory, you ask?  Eh, a variety of things. Announcements, service projects, group discussion… depends on the teacher.  Dr. Anderson admits that CPMS’s advisory program is a work in progress and is looking to next year to make even more improvements.

So, what’s the deal with AVID? Is it a class?  Is it a binder? Is it a study hall?

Yes, let’s chat AVID.  First and foremost, AVID is a collection of teaching strategies that all Cedar Park teachers are trained to implement in their classrooms.  BSD has a very nice little recap here. In a nutshell, AVID in the classroom promotes collaborative, subject-specific learning groups, the inquiry method, and using writing as a learning tool (just google it). Examples include the Socratic seminar and teaching how to take standardized notes. These strategies should be seen across ALL classrooms at CPMS.

That gigantic AVID binder that you’ve heard your neighbors complain about?  That’s an organizational tool to help students maintain notes and school work IN ONE PLACE. There’s an ENTIRE AVID SYSTEM AND METHODOLOGY to that THREE INCH binder (which could easily be confused with a small briefcase or a booster seat).  As new sixth grade parents, you will most likely be shocked at its size and baffled by the table of contents system. Like, REALLY baffled. Just roll with it, buy lots of tape, and buy the zippered binder, if possible.

The AVID elective is a specific program that is meant to target students who would be the first in their families to attend college. This AVID class is an extra support system for those students to thrive and excel on their way to college admission. Students must apply and be accepted into this program.

The AVID program is popular throughout the area school districts, including Portland, Hillsboro, Tigard-Tualatin, and North Clackamas.

What does a typical sixth grade schedule look like?  Will my baby be confused?

Understanding the nuances of a middle school calendar is insanely tedious. In the spirit of brevity, here are sixth grade class schedules, broken down into a very nice bullet point list.  

  • Cedar Park students have a daily block schedule of their three core classes – humanities, math, and science.  Depending on the day, core classes run anywhere from 64 minutes to 86 minutes.

  • A student has a total of four elective periods (two each day, alternating days).  Two of them will be filled with PE and Spanish. That leaves two “open” electives for a student to choose. Electives are between 32 to 43 minutes long.

Now, here’s where it gets complicated.

  • If a student chooses band or choir as their elective, currently those teachers require students to meet every day, essentially filling both open elective periods.

  • If a child chooses art or drama, that leaves one more free elective.  Some students choose to do both art and drama, while others opt for an enrichment class.  Enrichment classes are pass/fail and are meant to be more hands-on exploring and an extension of science and math. 

  • If a child is referred to intervention services, AVID, or ESL services, those classes take the place of one of the free electives.

So!  Still with us?  In a typical day, a CPMS student will have three core classes and two electives (with the electives being half the duration of one core class).  Here’s the current CPMS schedule.

Ummm… still confused.  Why do these class durations change day to day?  Shouldn’t they all be the same?

Every Wednesday is early release, so all classes are shortened on Wednesday. Advisory meets every Thursday and Friday mornings, which also shortens the rest of the schedule.  

What math do sixth graders take?

Awesome question.  The majority of sixth graders begin in Math 6-7 (also known as Accelerated 6).  That means they will work through all the sixth grade targets and as many seventh grade targets as they can in the school year.  A smaller group may begin in Math 6-7-8, which is ALL the middle school math targets through eighth grade (and is what all Summa sixth graders take).

Can I just tell you to put my child in the highest math possible? I’m sure she can handle it.

Nope!  All students were invited to take a math placement test if they’d like to be considered for Math 6-7-8.  That info has already been sent to fifth grade families. 

I’d like to stalk my child’s homework assignments online.  What are my options?

Well, you actually have two options to circle the cyber parenting helicopter– Parentvue and Canvas.

First, is Parentvue, which allows you to view your child’s grades and report cards.  This is where you fill out the student enrollment forms as well. And because we’re so helpful…

Setting Up Your ParentVue Account (Activation key code needed from school)  

The second branch of Parentvue allows you to make payments online, which is INCREDIBLY HELPFUL for Wolf Day.  But because nothing in life can be easy, this payment portal (also through Parentvue) requires a DIFFERENT password than the portal you use to view grades.  WHY IN THE LOVE????? (raises fist and screams to sky)

Making Online Payments via ParentVue You’re welcome.

Canvas is BSD’s online learning management system, used by many (but not all) Cedar Park teachers.  While Parentvue will give you grades and general overview, Canvas will show you the nitty gritty details– every single assignment, teacher comments, due dates, etc.  

Canvas for Parents…. because mama’s always watching.

Can I still volunteer and stalk my child in person?

Absolutely, though middle school volunteering has a totally different look and feel than elementary.  Say goodbye to the cutesy little cutouts and gluing together 30 student-made calendars. There are simply not as many opportunities within the classroom.

However, some familiar options remain– Art Lit (one project per year), Media Center (checking out books), book fair, OBOB, and staff appreciation to name a few.  Individual teachers usually need speakers, chaperones, or occasionally someone to help with small groups.

There will also be a few brand-new options to your volunteering repertoire-- the student store (before school), the PACK store (during lunch), and student socials (twice a year and sooooo entertaining to watch).

If you are looking to volunteer at CPMS next year, you will need to email update_volunteer_locations@beaverton.k12.or.us in order to move your profile from BSE to Cedar Park Middle School. Parents are not automatically moved into the Cedar Park volunteer database.  Because frankly, that would be just too easy, now wouldn’t it? (eye roll)

You can also check out the Cedar Park PTC’s website to learn more details.

So we spent MONTHS trying to get into an option school, but now we’re stuck at Cedar Park.  Please make me feel better.

Oh, honey.  Going through the option school process is as stressful as college admissions, no? The open house circuit, the application itself, the second consideration – it’s all just one big roller coaster of anxiety, anticipation, and often, disappointment. We see you, we hear you, we know you.  If you are looking for some silver linings about joining Cedar Park, we have a couple.

First, while yes, CPMS is larger than your option schools, that also means that CPMS has more resources.  Larger schools can offer more electives, more intervention, and more options for teachers and friends. Also, while Cedar Park might feel like some OTHER PLACE that is wholly foreign and unfamiliar to you, it’s actually comprised of a LOT of familiar faces.  Cedar Park is the community we live in. Faces and families you’ve seen at preschool, milltown soccer, cub scout jamborees, cedar mill baseball…the list goes on. We’re all still here, ready to tackle middle school together.

This all sounds well and good, but who can I talk to when my sweetie is struggling?

Well, if the student is struggling with one specific subject, contact the teacher.  If they are barely managing in multiple classes and/or with friend groups, contact the sixth grade counselor.  The current counseling model will change next year as counselors will now loop with a specific grade, ensuring that students have the same assigned counselor during all three years at CPMS.

Other Juicy Cedar Park tidbits:

  • The new maker’s lab at CPMS is still a work in progress, but is accessible through a student’s science class, depending on the unit and the teacher.

  • Art Lit DOES happen at the middle school level, but it is only one project per year per grade.

  • Cell phones are allowed before school and at lunch.  Some teachers do allow students to use them as an academic tool during class.  As you can imagine… well, some teachers are more strict than others. However, Cedar Park does have one consistent problem–– PARENTS TEXTING THEIR KIDS DURING CLASS.  Ummmmm.... guilty (lowers head in shame).

  • CPMS has 19 busses that service the school so the bus lines are one big chaotic crush of bodies.  CPMS staff walk around with a cookie sheet attached to a yard stick with magnetic numbers that announce the order of the arriving busses. Seriously.  You read that right. COOKIE SHEET ON A STICK. However, as nuts as that sounds, it actually works. Daily. The kids manage and few actually miss their bus.

You’re bound to have more questions.  Any more can be directed to shannon_anderson@beaverton.k12.or.us.

In complete and total non-Cedar Park news, our Bonny Slope preschool is now taking applications for 2018-19.  Call the school if you are interested!

And that’s a wrap! Join us for the next Principal Chat on Friday, 4/27 at 2pm.