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Aside from new transportation routes, Solanco Public Schools also offers kids the option to just stay home altogether.

The Solanco Virtual Academy (SVA) is a district-operated cyber school that offers an alternative to standard instruction by teaching K12 kids at home through computers, with monitoring and evaluation performed by district teachers. “Some children just don’t perform as well in the classroom,” says Keith Kaufman, Solanco’s director of community relations, so Pennsylvania allows students the option to attend school online.

Public and private students living in the Solanco Public Schools district are picked up and dropped off daily at one of five hubs Solanco uses to bus students.

Solanco Public Schools—short for “Southern Lancaster County”—is the fifth largest district in Pennsylvania, spanning 181 square miles. And it means long bus rides for students: 50 minutes for elementary students and an hour or more for middle and high school.

Superintendent Gary P. Richards (center) meets with Jane Anderson, human resources director, and Andrew Colati, social studies instructor at Wilton High School, where the district’s administrative offices are located.

According to Wilton (Conn.) School District Superintendent Gary G. Richards, most people who move to Wilton do so for its high-quality schools, which has struck a successful balance between educating its most advanced learners and ones who need more help.

A senior in the Princeton City School District video records the staff from the athletic department before they deliver a seminar to students.

Technology is so prevalent today, why not engage students in school with the same interactive devices and communication tools they love using? That’s the approach the Princeton City (Ohio) School District is taking as it employs a dizzying number of technology devices, software programs, and social media platforms to complement classroom instruction, homework, and extracurricular activities, and bring together students, teachers, counselors and families in a virtual community that increases support, accountability, and ultimately student success.

Great Falls Elementary School Principal Wendell Sumter, left, and Chester County Schools Superintendent Agnes Slayman peer over students’ shoulders, excited about a project.

Schools aren’t often called one of the best in the world, but it happened in the rural district of Chester County (S.C.) School District. In October 2012, computing behemoth Microsoft named Chester County’s Great Falls Elementary School a 2012 “Innovative Pathfinder and Mentor School.” The distinction comes from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment to transform K12 education around the world by connecting teachers and school leaders in a community of professional development.

Keene, N.H., is a small New England town best known as home to Keene State College, Antioch College of New England, and a Guinness world record-setting fall pumpkin festival for the most-lit jack-o-lanterns in one place.

But Keene School District SAU 29 wants to be known for its own accolades—top-tier technology—and it’s trying to achieve that by replacing teachers’ desktop computers with iPads and piloting them as replacement textbooks in some classes as Keene explores digital instruction, and moves toward the “electronic book bag” experts say is on the horizon.

An East Leyden High School student selects a Chromebook from a charging cart. With Chromebooks, students can work on any device in any class period and access their work from anywhere, including from the Chrome browser installed on a home computer.

For students of Leyden High School District 212, two miles from O’Hare Airport in Illinois, Aug. 14, 2012 felt more like their birthday than the first day of school. The district, comprising East and West Leyden high schools, realized its long-planned hope of providing a computing device to every student and gave out 3,500 new Google Chromebooks.

When Joseph Andreasen joined the rural Oro Grande School District in 2006 as assistant superintendent, he was one of seven employees. The one-elementary-school district was short on students and therefore on cash, because state funding is based largely on enrollment.

Since then, however, the southern California school system, located about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, has exploded. The staff numbers more than 250, enrollment has skyrocketed from roughly 110 students to more than 3,700, and the budget has stabilized, with $12 million in savings and reserves to pay off debt.

Students at Weller Elementary School use Avatar Kinect for learning.

Students at Steuart W. Weller Elementary School in Ashburn, Va., toss darts, play guitar, dance like rock stars, raft down rapids, and talk to youngsters in Romania. Yet there are no darts, no instruments, no DJs, no white water and no expensive international plane tickets involved. Instead, the students use their arms, legs and body movements to do the activities through a video game system, which also allows for live video chats around the world.

Facilities support services director Timothy Marsh (left) looks on as Newport Harbor High School assistant principal David Martinez (center left) and principal Michael Vossen (middle) receive a check for $10,846.

In late May, Olympics history was made at the refurbished 82-year-old pool at Newport Harbor High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County, Calif. The U.S. men’s water polo team beat in the 2012 Olympic trials the gold-medal-winning Hungarian national team for the first time in a decade.