The Las Cruces Academy public newsletter of 25 April 2021
Welcome to the news of our thriving students and teachers! We’ve been really busy and productive; we relate a lot of news here.
First – students are here in person and are COVID-safe! We are both very lucky and very actively taking precautions during this pandemic. Our students have been learning in person since last September, with no COVID-19 cases at the school. We have a big building with much space per student for social distancing. Everyone who was exposed or might have been has self-quarantined, and that’s only a few of us. We provided distance learning to quarantined students, with technology up to the task without unduly burdening the teachers and the in-person students. Our teachers have been vaccinated, with one having recovered from COVID over a break. We check everyone’s temperature on arrival. We circulate the air in the school. We sanitize surfaces that need it. Everyone wears masks all day other than while eating. Everyone practices social distancing. Fortunately, the newest CDC guidelines allows ball-playing, which is a lively, happy time.
For all kinds of learning, students’ selective use of our 15 Chromebook laptops, newly purchased for this school year on a generous grant, has been a boon for them. From essay-writing in English class to computer programming to, on occasion, some distance learning for several families, our technology supports learning effectively. Of course, our students do very much off the computers – reading actual books, doing hands-on experiments, having vigorous class discussions, and more.
Our students are great readers. It shows in the success of our annual book fair. This year, again, we topped our sales marks. We always have to ask Scholastic Book Fairs to send more advanced books. The fair this year runs from April 14th through the 27th.
Other happy times included Valentine’s Day, with older students creating games and fun and snacks for the younger students, and Chinese New Year, our annual celebration of our great language program.
We’ve attained our record enrollment, 45 students. Kindergarten, early kindergarten, and grades 1 & 2 are at our enrollment limits. Our 7 middle-schoolers in grade 6-8 comprise our biggest such group ever. We were concerned that enrollment might drop and squeeze our budget, and some families did choose to sit out the pandemic, but even more flocked to us.
Our academic innovations over the years are going strong. The after-school clubs in engineering (Legos now) and theater meet every other week by Zoom. Teacher Elizabeth Brasher recenty challenged students to use Legos to make animals and scenes, or desserts – that’s a mix. In her theater club, students played a physical acting game called “A Million Ways to… In the kindergarten – early kindergarten class, students wrote poetry in several forms, guided by teacher Katie Bushma, who joined us in January. We’re engaged academically outside the school, too. Students in grades 3-8 answered the call by NMSU Biology Professor Graciela Unguez to create questions on neurobiology for her university students. Teacher and Board Chair Vince Gutschick started a late-Thursday group of five students to program in the Python language to analyze big data sets of weather records for patterns, the current focus being on the distribution of freezing weather events.
We anticipate that our students will shine once again on the Iowa Assessments in the week of April 26-30. This is the only standardized testing we do. We do not teach to any rigid curriculum nor do we teach to any tests, but last time, in 2019, the LCA came out in the top 1% nationally.
Our outreach flows on. Twenty-three students made Earth Day a challenge to think for people driving by the Mesilla Town Hall. They created posters on environmental issues and held them for all to see. They can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/a2wUmPkU4cw (here’s a live link).
Vince Gutschick continues his science-nugget podcasts on our local NPR station. You can find and listen to over 100 at krwg.org/programs/science-digest. He also created a hyperlinked semi-popular book about the habitability of planets, a hot topic with a lot of poor information needing redress. It’s freely available at lcaoutreach.org/habitability-of-planets-2, with a companion site lcaoutreach.org/travel that distills 34 years of travel to 41 countries.
LCA families, Board members, and friends of the school have been generous with funds and goods. Our Annual Fund broke through its goal of $20,000. That’s very important for our biggest initiatives, the first and most immediate one being attaining accreditation. While accreditation is not necessary for a primary / middle school, it can help draw in even more good students. Moreover, the accreditation process with the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest is so rigorous and thorough that we are verifying in great deal that we’re doing things right. Specifically to help us meet the accreditation standards, our Board of Trustees met on April 18th to cover around 30 individual topics in finances, teaching, safety, Board structure, and more, all being codified in our policies handbook (100+ pages and growing).
With very mixed feelings, we will send off our long-time math teacher, Kelly Lin, at the end of this academic year. Her husband, Chase, has finished medical school and is taking an internship out of state. They’re already making the long preparations for the move. We’re sure that they will both thrive in their new location. We’re posting the opening for her job, teaching grades 1 & 2 and math 1-8, in a number of venues – our website, Facebook, and Craigslist. If you know of a candidate, we’ll be very pleased to hear from you. We have a promising candidate, while also pursuing due diligence to get a top teacher once again.