It’s the last day of school and the front office of Sprunica Elementary School is buzzing.
Kids are running in requesting bandages and frozen sponges to put on scrapes and bruises they received while playing hard in the sun.
Fifteen parents are making their way into the office. They’d volunteered to help organize water fights, hand out water to thirsty kiddos and walk with preschool students through bouncy houses and sprinklers during the Summer Blast Off celebration.
It’s also the day Principal Abbie Oliver made a big announcement for the third time in a row: Sprunica Elementary School is a Four Star School.
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A total of 287 schools received the award throughout the state. Sprunica was the only Brown County school to receive it for 2014-15.
Four Star schools must have performed in the upper 25th percentile on ISTEP and end-of-course assessment exams and earned an “A” in the state’s accountability system.
But if you ask Oliver, this achievement is because of her team — the teachers, the parents, the students, the paraprofessionals, the women in the cafeteria who serve hot meals, the special education bus drivers who can be heard saying “Have a good day” to each student who exits their buses every morning.
“When you have everyone working together for the common good of a cause for a child, great things happen,” Oliver said.
“It’s one big team effort. Anything that is done with intention usually has a much better success.”
Success also is built upon intentional instruction and consistency. Each student in kindergarten through fourth grade has almost the same homework every night: Read with your parent for 20 minutes and practice your math facts and sight words.
Very rarely will students receive additional homework because Oliver knows that after school kids want to be kids.
“For the most part, if you do those few things, you listen in class and you attend, you should be good,” she said.
“They need to play. They have to want to come back here.”
This year’s award is even more special because every student in the building had to take the ISTEP exam last year.
In the past, schools were given the opportunity for special education students to opt out of ISTEP and take an alternative assessment that would not be counted with the other ISTEP scores, Oliver said.
Alane Lovell, the kindergarten through second-grade special education teacher, said preparing students who have special educational needs for an exam like ISTEP requires deliberate instruction and being creative with schedules.
“Everybody from myself to all of the paraprofessionals who are working with kids, we have to make every minute count,” she said.
“We hate for kids to miss things, but if a child needs a little more reading, they might miss 15 minutes of a music class to get more reading instruction.”
Waiting in line for cotton candy in the gymnasium on the last day of classes, fourth-graders Aviendha Cox and Noah Schultz said they were both “super” excited for their school to be named a Four Star School again.
This is Schultz’s first year at Sprunica.
“My favorite part of Sprunica is how the teachers are really nice and how they always comfort you when you aren’t feeling well,” he said. “They always give you the opportunity to ask questions about something you don’t understand and they make you feel safe about learning and asking questions.”
Cox especially likes her writing class because her teacher lets her “free write” about anything. “I just wrote a story about this fox finding a mermaid in a secret cave,” she said.
“If you have a really bad day, they cheer you up with a snack or something. They always make it good,” she said about her teachers.
Alyse Johnson is a second-grade teacher this school year. In past years, she taught Title I and kindergarten at Sprunica, and next year, she’ll teach second and third grade.
On the last day of school, she is supervising water fights, smiling as the children screech.
She credits the success to the expectations the school has for its staff and students. “I think that’s a big thing, and we all work so hard. We’re only required a certain amount of hours for our contract, but every single person in this building works way beyond that,” she said.
“It’s just a lot of hard work and fun at the same time.”