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Jackson Public Schools welcome students back with two new buildings

John R. Lewis Elementary
Cascades Elementary
John R. Lewis Elementary
John R. Lewis Elementary
Cascades Elementary
Cascades Elementary
Cascades Elementary
Posted at 11:09 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 23:09:36-04

JACKSON, Mich. — It’s back to school for thousands of students in Jackson, and there are going to be a few differences, including two new elementary schools.

Made possible by a 2018 bond, Cascades Elementary is new and improved while John R. Lewis Elementary was built from the ground up on the site of the former Lincoln Elementary School on the city’s south side.

John R. Lewis Elementary Principal Jill Weatherwax says giving this new school his namesake was a no-brainer.

John R. Lewis Elementary

“He stood for education, he stood for equity, he stood for the community so this name is representative of all of Jackson. We felt that is perfect for all of our kids because they’re coming from all over Jackson and all over neighboring communities as well,” Weatherwax said.

Weatherwax says she will work to build a culture around Lewis, a civil rights activist who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia’s fifth district from 1987 until his death in 2020.

John R. Lewis Elementary

“We have developed a John R. Lewis creed based on some of his speeches and we have our John R. Lewis Viking values,” Weatherwax said. “Our culture is centered around equity, inclusiveness, and curiosity. We are a STEAM school, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. So, that is also one of our main focuses.”

According to Cascades Elementary School Principal Martin DuBois, everything in the school is now state of the art.

“We've got smart TVs in the classroom,” DuBois said. “All the teachers have their own MacBooks... We've got Chromebooks and iPads. We will be using Google Classroom and Seesaw to supplement the learning and curriculum.”

Cascades Elementary

But, the one thing still hanging over everyone’s head is COVID.

Jackson Public Schools Instructional Grade Coach Angela Turner says they will be taking precautions so that everyone is able to stay in school.

“Research says that because of the pandemic that there is a year to two-year gap in learning so we’re not just as teachers we’re not just dealing with the summer loss, we’re dealing with additional losses,” Turner said.

Cascades Elementary

To combat that, they'll be “working closely with teachers on research supported strategies,” Turner said. “We’ve already started that process. Also quickly identifying our students who need the extra instructional support.”

Superintendent Jeff Beal says it’s good to be back and to have some sense of normalcy, which was apparent at Tuesday night’s open houses.

“They're smiling having fun and they're happy to be back,” Beal said. “Our teachers are thrilled to have kids with them. It feels very, very good. Much more normal than we were a year ago at this time,”

Cascades Elementary

John R. Lewis enrollment has 120 students right now with one classroom per grade. They have plans to eventually get to full capacity, 350 students.

Cascades Elementary has 500 students.

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