School begins next Tuesday for Calcasieu Parish students and the parish's 2,700 teachers have been preparing for the kick off since last Tuesday, according to Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus.
Bruchhaus told Sulphur Rotarians this week that Sowela Technical Community College hosted more around 1,000 of the district's teachers for training this week.
Brucchaus said among the things he's most proud of in the parish is the growth of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula in Sulphur.
E.K. Key Elementary opened its doors last school year as the first STEM magnet school in Sulphur. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade are taught in classes of 24.
He said there are six magnet classes and STEM lessons are integrated throughout the coursework in every subject matter, including English and social studies.
Bruchhaus said this approach has not been used anywhere else in the state.
"The school had a very successful first year," he said. "The average growth on state testing in English and math was about three points. And that actually put us in the top 10 in the state. E.K. Key grew 51 points."
Bruchhaus said only three of the six STEM classes took the state testing, so the jump in points can't be attributed to STEM students alone.
"It (the presence of magnet classes) had an impact on the whole school," he said.
He said there was also growth in test scores throughout the parish.
This school year, LeBlanc Middle School has 30 slots for students to participate in the STEM curriculum. Bruchhaus said they hope to implement the program at Sulphur High in the future.
He said STEM teachers went through a unique hiring process in which they picked lesson plan topics at random and had to develop a plan within a time frame to present to their colleagues. "Often people question why they didn't get a position or if the person who did is really qualified," Bruchhaus said. "This process made it very clear who was and was not."
The next project will be a STEM bus. Bruchhaus said the CPSB plans to purchase a full-size school bus and retrofit it to serve as a lab for schools when they schedule a visit. He said local businesses have been approached and have expressed interest in sponsoring the project. Their names will be prominently featured on the bus.