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DeWitt is a community that highly values education. The community’s schools, both public and private, are filled with activity. A multitude of programs are available to help students strive for successful futures, no matter what their particular talents and interests are.

DeWitt is home to five preschools and two day care centers and is surrounded by nearby higher education choices. Within a 20-minute drive, students can choose from nearly 15 different community colleges and four-year universities. Over 40 colleges and universities can be found within a 90-minute radius of DeWitt.

Central Community School District
Central Community School District is a rural school district covering 179 square miles (including DeWitt, Grand Mound, Welton and Low Moor). The Central Community School District prides itself in providing a rigorous, innovative education to approximately 1,500 students in preschool through grade 12. The graduation rate stands as 99 percent with nearly 90 percent of students going on to further their education with some sort of post-secondary education or training.

In recent years, the district has become well known for the high caliber of its instruction, which actively employs technology such as tablets, laptops, desktop computers and smart boards at every grade level. Every student in fourth through 12th grades is issued a laptop, according to Dr. Dan Peterson, superintendent. The laptops in grades four through six remain at school, while students in seventh through 12th grades may take them home to accomplish schoolwork. With exemplary teachers working in the district, combined with the partnership of high quality instruction and technology integration, the opportunities for students are impressive.

“When I arrived here seven years ago, we immediately started planning for improvement. We first built a robust internal network so that when we started bringing on additional devices, it wouldn’t be continually crashing,” Peterson recalled. “Then we began gradually investing in advanced technology.”

A $26 million facilities expansion completed five years ago also advanced the standing of the district. Physical structure additions and improvements were made possible, Peterson said, by local property tax revenues, the local option state sales tax (which tacks a penny onto every purchase in the state and distributes the money to schools on a per capita basis) and the generosity of local residents and businesses through donations to the Central Educational Foundation. The facilities found in the Central Community School District are expansive, updated and a pillar of pride for the community.

“We have cultivated a culture of instructional innovation here where technology resources are available to give our students the best education we can offer. We are continually called upon to present at conferences, conventions and panel discussions on this subject,” he continued.

“In addition, we encourage our teachers to continually question what we are doing and how we are doing it in an effort to keep our instruction as relevant to today’s world as we can,” Peterson said. “We have truly become a ‘district of change’ where people have become comfortable with quickly changing and adapting to new realities and conditions.”

“We are very purposeful about how we teach, what we teach and assessing student achievement. We continually look for innovative approaches to capitalizing on each student’s unique talents and interests through our extended learning program,” he added.

Staff members get to know students and learn about their interests and talents and then work to provide enrichment in those unique areas. For instance, high school students who want to learn a language other than the Spanish that is taught in the school may take any language they wish through interactive Rosetta Stone computer programs available through the district. Those interested in robotics recently formed a Robotics League, which qualified for a national competition.

“We are attempting to realign our thinking to support the interests of our students,” Peterson said. “Our priority is establishing a relationship with our students from the day they walk through the door and making sure that they walk across that graduation stage.”

Many clubs and programs are offered to students as well. From Future Farmers of America (FFA) to Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) to band, sports, performing arts and much more, the focus is on the students. They also offer concurrent education in which advanced students may take 31 different college-level classes while in high school and earn college credit from the local community college.

Those interested in the arts enjoy the use of the state-of-the-art Central Performing Arts Center (CPAC), located at the high school and completed in 2012. It is available not only to district students but also for rentals by dance studios and other private groups. The CPAC employs a part-time events coordinator to book performances by a variety of arts groups and performers from around the country and the world in order to expand cultural opportunities for all of the residents in our area, Peterson said.

St. Joseph Catholic School
One of the oldest schools in eastern Iowa, St. Joseph Catholic School, which was established by settlers around the time of the Civil War, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. In fact, 25 percent of its current students have parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who also attended St. Joseph Catholic School.

“Generations of local families have studied here and that has contributed to the longevity of the school. Families are loyal to St. Joseph Catholic School because they all have fond memories of coming here themselves to receive a faith-based education,” explained Sharon Roling, school principal.

“We live in such a transient society that it is amazing to even have second generation students at a school, much less third or fourth generations,” she stated. “We receive an abundance of support from our individual families who work together to form our school family. It’s all about relationships.”

“While we welcome students of all faiths, it is important to note that we infuse the Catholic religion into every facet of our curriculum,” Roling said. “Students and teachers appreciate the freedom to share their faith in the context of academics.”

Thanks to the support of its parish community, St. Joseph Catholic School is able to boast the lowest tuition in the Diocese of Davenport. Tuition assistance is available for anyone who qualifies.

St. Joseph Catholic School today houses preschool through eighth grade. It is an accredited school staffed by 15 professional staff and two classroom aides. Teachers average 23.5 years of experience. Twenty-seven percent of the professional staff holds a master’s degree. There is one classroom per grade level with an average of 20 students per class.

In addition to religion and the core subjects, St. Joseph students are taught music, art, and physical education. Technology is also a vital part of school life. The school provides middle school students with laptops. Chromebooks are available to students in grades 3-5. A classroom set of iPads and a computer lab are also used by kindergarten through eighth grade students. Opportunities exist for students to participate in reading enrichment, a gifted program, band and chorus. Students can also take part in school-sponsored sports beginning in the sixth grade.

In addition to the preschools offered at Ekstand Elementary School and St. Joseph Catholic School, there are three more options for DeWitt parents.

Grace Lutheran Church has offered a preschool program for three and four-year-olds for the past six years and currently has 29 students, according to Deje Jensen, director. The preschool provides classes for three-year-olds two mornings a week and classes for four-year-olds five mornings or five afternoons a week. The morning class mixes three and four-year-olds together.

“We believe that children learn best through play and by experiencing the world around them. So our classes are social-based with work on colors, shapes, numbers, letters and writing their names,” Jensen said.

Kids’ Business is a day care center for children ages six weeks to 12 years and has preschool classes for appropriately-aged children. They currently have 81 students and 19 staff members and have been in existence since 1996, according to Heather Walters, director.

“We focus on the development of the whole child, using a creative curriculum which keys into what the children are interested in. For instance, if one of our teachers had a lesson planned about butterflies, but the children found a worm outside and were intensely interested, we would quickly pivot and make the lesson about worms. We seek to capitalize on the children’s interests,” Walters explained.

Creative Learning Center recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Center has over 155 enrollees. They offer child care and preschool services. Child care is offered for children ages six weeks up to 12 years old. Preschool is offered for children 3-5 years old.

Teachers and staff members at Creative Learning Center focus on the four areas of child development – social, emotional, cognitive and physical – and on providing children with structured play, as well as more academic learning units like math, science, reading and writing, according to Mindy Chapman, director. “We have a structured daily schedule in each room, with weekly lesson plans for every room.”

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