The Belle Ringer

Belle River Elementary School Newsletter ~ February 2016

Important Dates

Wednesday, February 3

  • Popcorn Day

Thursday, February 4

  • PTO Meeting at 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, February 10

  • Popcorn Day
  • Pupil Count Day
  • Parent Technology Night

Friday, February 12 - Tuesday, February 16

  • Mid-Winter Break

Wednesday, February 17

  • Digital Learning Day
  • Classes Resume
  • Popcorn Day
  • Third Grade to Dr. Brieden's Office (10:15-11:45)
  • Conga Line at 3:15

Thursday, February 18

  • Third Grade Pollution Solutions (10:30-11:50)
  • Fifth Grade Party Planning Meeting at 6:00 p.m.

Friday, February 19

  • School Store
  • Daddy Daughter Dance, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Monday, February 22

  • Board of Education Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 24
  • Popcorn Day

Thursday, February 25

  • ECSD Elementary International Carnvial, Gearing Elem., 6:00-8:00

Wednesday, March 2

  • Half Day for Students

Friday, March 4

  • School Store

The Case for Homework

Through the years, I have heard a lot of debate about whether or not elementary students should have homework. It can be a real challenge to sit down every night after school and work with my own children on their homework, especially when we have other activities going on, dinner to prepare, and that oh-so-worn-out feeling that comes at the end of a long day. However, after working in education for 22 years, reading countless research articles, and raising three daughters, I strongly believe that homework improves student achievement.

Homework is an integral part of your child's educational process. The assignment of homework serves two purposes. The first and obvious is practice and application of academic skills. Equally important and often overlooked is the fact that homework is an exercise in developing responsibility, work ethic, self-discipline, and good study habits that will prepare students for their futures in education, training, or employment. Our students deserve the benefits of homework.

Research has consistently shown that parental involvement in a child's learning is a key factor in that child's achievement in school, and facilitating homework is one of the most important ways that parents can be involved. Parent support and supervision of homework is an extremely important factor toward building good study habits, organization, and personal responsibility. Homework also helps strengthen the family-school connection and helps you know and understand your child's strengths and weaknesses better.

Research findings support the common “10-minute rule”, which states that all daily homework assignments combined should take about as long to complete as 10 minutes multiplied by the student's grade level. When required reading is included as a type of homework, the 10-minute rule might be increased to 15 minutes.

Approximate Time Allotments for the Average Student:

Kindergarten - about 5-10 minutes a day

First Grade - about 10-15 minutes a day

Second Grade - about 20 minutes a day

Third Grade - about 30 minutes a day

Fourth Grade - about 40 minutes a day

Fifth Grade - about 50 minutes a day

Our teachers at Belle River have important reasons for assigning homework including introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students' knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest. Often homework is merely work that was not completed during class. On days when your student does not have assigned homework, he or she should be working on items such as those listed below.

Daily expectations include but are not limited to:

· Daily reading

· Math Facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)

· Word Study Practice

· Studying for Test and Quizzes

· Working on Moby Max, RAZ-Kids, Spelling City, and other educational web sites

Thank you for supporting your student at home and supervising the completion of homework. The work you put in now will pay off when your child develops independence and advances to middle school and high school.

Together with you in the homework trenches,

Rachel Card

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February Box Tops Challenge!

It is contest time again! We will be collecting Box Tops for the month of February. The classroom that collects the most box tops up until the deadline of February 26th will win a classroom treat (ice cream, pizza, cider & donuts – decision to be made by the winning teacher). Our Box Tops Coordinator, Mrs. Christina Heslop, sent home with each student a sheet to start collecting and any extras can be sent in with your student in a plastic bag or envelope. Please make sure to put your student’s name and teacher’s name on the sheet and any additional (bag/envelope) Box Tops. Do not forget to check expiration dates, since Box Tops do expire and are not accepted. Let’s make this year GREAT and Happy Collecting to you all!

Are you a Box Tops member? Sign up at to stay updated on our school’s earnings and find a full list of hundreds of participating products (I have attached). Members also receive exclusive coupon offers and recipes and can learn about extra ways for our school to earn more cash. Our school code is 164686

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Mrs. Heslop at She is working hard to make our school’s Box Tops for Education program a huge success this year. Thanks for your help!

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Kindergarten Round-Up 2016

It is that time of year again! Kindergarten Round-Up will be held on Wednesday, March 9 and Thursday, March 10 at the East China School District Administrative Office building at 1585 Meisner Road. Registration will be from noon to 5:30p.m. for children who will be five years old on or before September 1, 2016. Please park in the lot and enter the doors by the parked school bus. Enrollment is on a walk-in basis. The busiest times tend to be from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. and from 3:30 - 4:15, so please plan accordingly. Your kindergarten student is invited and encouraged to attend Round-Up with you. Let your child experience a "Learning Safari" and take the opportunity to board a school bus! District staff will be present to answer questions about bus transportation, before and after-school childcare services, food services and other topics.

Registration packets containing detailed information are available at all East China elementary schools and at the Administrative Offices. Parents are encouraged to pick up and complete a packet before coming to round-up.

Belle River is Well-Represented at 60th Annual March of Dimes Jail and Bail

Jail and Bail originated in Port Huron, Michigan back in 1957, and has received national recognition for being the largest March of Dimes Jail and Bail fundraising event in the nation. This year, two members of our Belle River family are participating in the 60th annual Jail and Bail on February 6th

First grader Sophia Metheny and her family have been chosen as the “Most Wanted Family” for this year’s Jail and Bail. Sophia was born 10 weeks prematurely and weighed 3 lbs 10 oz. She was in the NICU for 19 days due to respiratory distress and other issues. Soon after her arrival, her family was asked to serve as the Ambassador Family for Southeastern Michigan Blue Water Area for the March of Dimes. During the three years that Sophia’s family served as the Ambassador Family, they became educated further of prematurity and how it affects each and every one of us. Sophia loves working with the March of Dimes and she says that she will continue to do so to make sure that babies are born healthy and safe.

Also participating again as a “prisoner” for about his twelfth year is Mr. Bill Westerhof, our P.E. teacher. You can make a donation on his personal pledge page or call 810-982-0177 on the day of the event.

March of Dimes raises funds that stay locally to benefit all pregnancies. Monies donated by people in our local community helped doctors at Wayne State and U of M save Sophia's life.

The March of Dimes has touched your life if:

*You or your baby received the polio vaccine

*Your baby received newborn screening tests in the hospital

*Your baby was born too soon and spent time in the NICU

*You took folic acid (b12) before and during pregnancy to prevent brain and spinal cord defects

*You had a HEALTHY baby due to good prenatal care.

Four million babies were born last year and the March of Dimes helped each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs.

If you would like to donate, please check out Sophia’s Family’s web page and Mr. Westerhof’s web page linked below. You can watch the event live on Comcast Channel 12, or you can listen live on WPHM 13.80AM and

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January Students of the Month

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May 3rd Bond Election

The primary purpose of the election is to enhance student safety, security, and educational opportunities while assuring that the classroom learning environment is up-to-date and that our schools and school facilities are in good repair. The bond proposal is designed to positively impact all of our students and all of our schools.

The bond proposal projects fall into five general areas:

1. Improving student safety and school security

2. Upgrading instructional technology and technology infrastructure

3. Upgrading building infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs

4. Improving co-curricular facilities to support the arts and athletics

5. Improving bus and parent drop-off and pick-up loops, parking areas, and site lighting

All bond proposal projects have been approved by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

This bond proposal is on the ballot to assure that the East China School District’s instructional program remains up-to-date, that the learning environment is safe and secure, and that our schools and educational facilities remain a source of pride for the people they serve.

This is a link of the projects that are specific to Belle River:

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the May 3 School Bond Election

When is the election?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

What is on the ballot?

Voters residing within the boundaries of the East China School District will vote on a bond proposal to fund updates, renovation, and construction in five general areas:

1. Improving student safety and school security

2. Upgrading instructional technology and technology infrastructure

3. Upgrading building infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs

4. Improving co-curricular facilities to support the arts and athletics

5. Improving bus and parent drop-off and pick-up loops, parking areas, and site lighting

All bond proposal projects have been reviewed and approved by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Why is this election necessary?

The primary purpose of the election is to enhance student safety, security and educational opportunities while assuring that the classroom learning environment is up-to-date and that schools and school facilities are in good repair.

How will the bond proposal benefit students and the community?

The bond proposal will benefit students by enhancing safety measures at all schools. It will renovate and upgrade school facilities, enhance the learning environment, and protect the community’s educational assets. All bond proposal projects are designed to reflect positively on homeowner property values and the positive reputations of the school district and the communities it serves.

What will the bond proposal cost?

If voters approve the $49 million bond proposal on May 3, taxes will increase by 1.1 mills the first year. Over the 20-year life of the bond, the average millage rate will be 2.02 mills. But, in 2021/22 other bonds and obligations will be paid off, and the millage rate will drop so that for 15 of the 20 years, taxes will be less than they are today… if voters approve the May 3 bond proposal.

The first year cost to a homeowner living in a $100,000 house will be $55.00… or about 15 cents per day. To find your first year cost, multiply the taxable value of your home (which is one-half the market value) by 0.0011. To repeat our example, a person living in a $100,000 house (which has a taxable value of $50,000) will pay $55.00 per year ($50,000 x 0.0011).

What’s included in the bond proposal?

If approved by voters on May 3, over 350 projects will be completed. The proposed projects will impact every East China student, school, and school facility. A complete list of all the projects planned for each school appears in a separate document titled East China Projects by School.

What’s the exact wording that will appear on the ballot?

Below is the wording that appears on the ballot:

BONDING PROPOSAL Shall East China School District, St. Clair County, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed Forty-Nine Million Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($49,250,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefor, in one or more series, for the purpose of: acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for school buildings; remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, equipping and re-equipping and installing security measures for school buildings; erecting, furnishing and equipping additions to school buildings; remodeling, equipping, developing and improving athletic fields, athletic fields, athletic facilities and playgrounds; and developing and improving driveways, parking areas and sites?

[ ] Yes [ ] No

The following is for information purposes only:

The estimated millage that will be levied for the proposed bonds in 2016 is 1.10 mills ($1.10 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation). The maximum number of years the bonds of any series may be outstanding, exclusive of any refunding, is twenty (20) years. The estimated simple average annual millage anticipated to be required to retire this bond debt is 2.02 mills ($2.02 on each $1,000 oftaxable valuation). The school district does not expect to borrow from the State to pay debt service on the bonds. The total amount of qualified bonds currently outstanding is $13,890,000. The total amount of qualified loans currently outstanding is approximately $-0-. The estimated computed millage rate may change based on changes in certain circumstances. (Pursuant to State law, expenditure of bond proceeds must be audited, and the proceeds cannot be used for repair or maintenance costs, teacher, administrator or employee salaries, or other operating expenses.)


A yes vote usually means that you approve the bond proposal. Is that the case this time? Yes. A yes vote means that you are in favor of the bond proposal. A no vote means that you are opposed.

What is the difference between a bond and a sinking fund?

A bond is a State-approved funding process that specifies a set scope of projects. When voters approve a bond, the money specified in the bond proposal is borrowed and the school district makes payments over a period of years, much like a homeowner pays a mortgage. Bonds are usually issued for 20-30 years. If voters approve the May 3 bond proposal, the East China bonds will be issued for 25 years.

Bonds can be used for:

  • Constructing new school buildings
  • Constructing additions to existing school buildings
  • Remodeling existing school buildings
  • Energy conservation improvements
  • Land purchases
  • Site development and improvements
  • Athletic and physical education facility development and improvements
  • Playground development and improvements
  • Refunding debt (if new present value savings can be demonstrated)
  • Direct bond program costs such as professional fees, election fees, issuance costs, qualification fees, insurance fees, final audit costs
  • School bus purchases
  • Loose furnishings and equipment purchasing
  • Technology purchases limited to hardware and communication devices that transmit, receive or compute information for pupil instructional purposes only. The initial purchase of operating system and customized application software is allowed if purchased with the initial hardware.

Bonds cannot be used for:

  • Repairs, maintenance, or maintenance agreements
  • Supplies, salaries, service contracts, lease payments, installment contracts
  • Purchasing automobiles, trucks, or vans
  • Portable classrooms purchased for temporary use
  • Uniforms Textbooks Upgrades to an existing computer operating system or application software
  • Computer training, computer consulting, or computer maintenance contracts

A sinking fund is a financing initiative that gives a school district flexibility in meeting its individual needs. The project list is not specified in detail and a school district can add and subtract projects as needs arise or go away. Unlike a bond, sinking funds can be used for repairs and maintenance. They cannot be used for technology or transportation related items. Sinking funds are usually approved for 10 years or less. Both bonds and sinking funds are audited separately from the general budget to account for every dollar spent.

What technology is included in the bond proposal?

All technology upgrades included in the bond proposal are designed to support classroom instruction and enhance the learning environment. A primary focus is to ensure our students access to state of the art technology in every district classroom today and that technology can be upgraded in seven more years so as to put new technological tools, ones that have not even been invented yet, in the hands of our students tomorrow.

Can any of the bond proposal funds be used for employee salaries or operating expenses?

No. Bond proposal funds cannot be used for employee salaries. They also cannot be used for repair or maintenance costs or other operating expenses. Bond proposal funds must be used only for purposes specified in the ballot language, and, as required by State law, they must be audited.

How are Michigan’s schools funded?

The bulk of the funding to operate Michigan’s schools comes from a foundation allowance paid by the State of Michigan. The State collects 6.0 mills from every homeowner in Michigan. For businesses and people with second homes, the State collects an additional 18.0 mills. This revenue is then divided among public schools in Michigan. The amount returned to each public school district is their foundation allowance. This school year, East China’s foundation allowance is $7,718 per student.

Does the foundation allowance follow the student?

Yes. If student enrollment increases, the State’s foundation allowance payment is increased by the amount of the enrollment increase. Similarly, if enrollment declines, the State’s foundation allowance payment is decreased by the amount of the enrollment decrease. This is also true for Schools of Choice students. If a student living in the East China School District enrolls in another public school district, that school district receives the foundation allowance payment that would have gone to the East China School District. Similarly, if a student from outside the East China School District enrolls in the East China School District, the East China School District receives the foundation allowance for that student. Who can vote in the May 3 bond proposal election? Anyone can vote who resides in the East China Community School District, will be 18 years of age or older on Election Day, and is registered to vote by April 4, 2015.

Where can I register to vote?

You can register to vote at any Secretary of State office or at the Clerk’s Office where you reside. You can download a voter registration application at

Do I need to update my voter registration?

You need to update your voter registration if you have changed your name or address since the last time you voted. You can do this at any Secretary of State Office or at the Clerk’s Office where you reside.

Where do I vote?

You will vote at your regular school district precinct. If you are unsure of your precinct, call the East China School District at 810/676-1000.

Can I vote by absentee ballot?

Registered voters can vote by absentee ballot if they meet one of the following requirements: 1. They expect to be out of town on Election Day; 2. They are 60 years of age or older; 3. They are unable to vote without assistance at the polls; or, 4. They cannot attend the polls due to religious reasons. Absentee ballots will be available to voters after March 19. After March 19, voters can complete their absentee ballot application and vote in one stop at their Clerk’s Office. The whole process takes less than five minutes. The Clerk will mail absentee ballot applications to residents on the permanent absentee voter list before or shortly after March19.

Remember, you can get more information about the election by...

A. going to and clicking on School Election Information

B. calling any East China school principal

C. calling Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Skalka at 810/676-1000 or sending an email to Superintendent Skalka at

Our Mission: Working Collaboratively to Ensure All Students Learn

Our Vision: Belle River is an inviting, caring school community that meets the needs of every 21st century learner, by using Best Practices to facilitate positive behavior support

and high expectations for lifelong learners.

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