Honors classes, a student lounge, and entrepreneurship classes will be new for McCormick Middle School students when they return to class on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
Principal Nathan Baxendale begins his second year at the school after being hired last August to replace Craig Housum.
“My goal going forward is to make sure our kids feel safe on an emotional, mental, and physical level,” said Baxendale. “When they feel safe and we’re able to minimize the bullying and the types of behaviors that have been a problem, it goes a long way. We made a big dent in that last year. As we improve the curriculum, kids are going to be able to focus more on that if they don’t have to worry about being picked on at lunch.”
New honors language arts classes will be available for grades five through eight and an accelerated math program will be opened up for sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders this fall.
Computer coding courses will also be implemented, an initiative Baxendale has frequently advocated for since arriving in the district.
“It’s important for our students to keep up,” he said. “I’m very happy and we’re making huge strides bringing coding and STEM classes not just into McCormick, but the entire district. We need to let our kids be competitive with all of the other districts.”
Eighth-graders will take the PSAT this fall before McCormick’s school-wide state testing window is opened from the end of March through early May. Baxendale said exact dates for the spring testing should be known by Christmas.
McCormick will host the Lorain County Middle School Academic Challenge starting Nov. 13 and 14. Competition on both days will run from 9 a.m. to noon followed by a final round on Dec. 3.
Entrepreneurship and new technical education classes will now be available for seventh and eighth grade students.
“Both of these new classes are part of a career pathway we’re trying to build,” Baxendale said. “Challenging students in all areas is the best way to make sure they’re prepared for what high school and life will bring. That can mean academics, entrepreneurship, or our new honors classes. It can also mean offering them more interventions in the special education department. There’s a lot of things we’re tweaking in the master schedule this year that will allow for the kinds of individual instructions that are needed.”
Morning announcements will be produced in video form for the first time in school history and an achievement day May 22 will showcase all students’ independent study projects.
Good deeds and general positive behavior from students will be documented and rewarded in the form of student lounge passes. The “Duke Lounge” is located adjacent to the school’s cafeteria and is being furbished with new chairs and couches.
“This is a program called Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, or PBIS,” said Baxendale. “It’s a proactive approach to student relations and discipline. It’s giving kids incentives to behave the right way instead of punishing them for not doing the right thing. Every week, teachers will give out slips to kids when they’re seen doing things like opening a door for someone. At the end of the week we’ll draw names and those kids will have the opportunity to eat in the Duke Lounge.”
A principal’s council will also be formed this year to give students a strong voice.
“It may even be different students as the year goes along,” Baxendale said. “We won’t get a full perspective if it’s the same students all year. We’ll talk about anything and everything from academic to social issues and having that student view of all topics is very important to everything we’re trying to do here.”
On June 4, McCormick will hold an all-school field day behind the Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts.
“In the past, field day has always been separate things for different grade levels here and there,” the principal said. “It’s that last week of school. Testing is done. The whole day is going to be shot so why not put something like this together? There will be all types of events that everyone can kind of cut loose and enjoy.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.