April 2019 Principal Chat: Cedar Park Secrets... REVEALED

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Our April Principal Chat featured special guest, Cedar Park principal, Dr. Shannon Anderson, who came to spill the tea about middle school, Cedar Park, and what’s in store for our sweet fifth grade cherubs next year.  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. Having a child move onto middle school is like reliving the first day of kindergarten. All the same fears apply-- Do they know where the bathroom is?  Will bullies be mean to them? How will they get to the right bus?

Sadly, those fears are exponentially amplified because clearly public middle schools are cesspools of hormones, online bullying, 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 just over 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.

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.  

CPMS also holds a new student welcome event, 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 walk their schedule and find the bathroom.

What should student expect the first week of school?

The first day of school will be sixth graders only. They better enjoy the back of the bus because they won’t be sitting that far back 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 walk their schedule & basically get the lay of the land before Day 2, which is with the entire school.

Just FYI: Sixth graders share lockers and those won’t be assigned them until later in September, so DO NOT send your baby to school on the first day with that new pink locker chandelier.

Are there ways for incoming students to check out CPMS this spring?

Absolutely.  The more a student walks our halls, the easier it is for them to picture themselves here. That actually goes for parents, too!

Here are some events this May/June that can help your family transition to Cedar Park:

  • Cedar Park PTC (Parent Teacher Club) Community Meeting:  Monday, May 20 @ 7pm. This is the final meeting of the year and board members will have a small presentation and Q & A session just for incoming parents (CPMS Library).

  • CPMS Band Concert: Thursday, May 30.  Grades 6 & 7 will perform at 6pm. Grade 8 and the Jazz Band will perform at 7 pm (Cedar Park Gym).

  • AVID Family Night: Tuesday, June 4. New students are invited to see what AVID is all about (CPMS Library).

  • Coffee & Tea with the Principal:  Thursday, June 6 @ 8:30am.  Join Dr. Anderson, the CPMS counselors, and a handful of 6th grade teachers for an interactive presentation and Q & A session, all geared towards incoming families (CPMS Library).

  • Cedar Park Onstage Presents “Getting to Know… Footloose”  June 6 (7pm) and June 7 (2pm & 7pm).  See our drama department perform their last musical of the year!  (Cedar Park Cafeteria).

Next year’s dates are suddenly a bit in the air (as the district revamps its calendar due to teacher contract negotiations).  Look for more upcoming dates soon.

How does this team thing work?  I really need my kid on the smart team (so they can get into a good college).

Each grade is divided into three teams.  A student’s core classes– humanities, math, & science–are all contained within one team, creating a community within a community.  These teams are chosen by… a computer. Yup, that’s it. Truly, it’s just random chance.

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 once a week.  They will have the SAME ADVISORY 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, targeted group discussions… each week has a specific topic or activity.

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

Okay, so first 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. Just roll with it, buy lots of tape, and get 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. Making it even MORE complicated are the looming budget cuts. So! 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). Cedar Park is waiting to learn more about the looming budget cuts (which could affect our MYP program & the requirement of Spanish as an elective). However, possible electives include band, choir, drama, and various enrichment classes like STEM Expo and Media Lab (which are pass/fail).

  • 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.

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.

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

Nope!  All students are 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. Students can also be reevaluated after 6th grade.

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.

Canvas is BSD’s online learning management system, used by many (but not all) Cedar Park teachers.  

Parentvue will give you grades and general overview.  Canvas will show you the nitty gritty details– every single assignment, teacher comments, due dates, etc.  

You can check out all this useful info, links to set-up, instructions, etc. at the Cedar Park PTC website.

What is the cell phone policy at Cedar Park?

So glad you asked. Cedar Park revamped its cell phone policy last January and it’s made a HUGE difference in the vibe of our school day.  Cell phones are off and away ALL DAY, including during class time, passing time, and lunch. The staff at Cedar Park says the new policy is lovely.  Read up on it here.

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. Some familiar options remain– Art Lit (three projects per year), production (done through the office and not individual teachers), 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, wouldn’t it? (eye roll)

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

So we REALLY tried 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.  

Other Juicy Cedar Park tidbits:

  • Cedar Park feeds into both Beaverton and Sunset high schools.  It is common, and not a problem, for students to wear spirit wear from both schools.

  • 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. Few actually miss their bus.

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

And that’s a wrap! Join us for the next Principal Chat on Tuesday, 5/21 at 6pm.