The Shark News

November Updates for Downes Elementary Community

Principal's Corner


We have had an excellent start to the school year and first marking period! Our students and staff are working hard on “surfing the WAVES” They are Working hard, Achieving goals, Valuing others, Exhibiting responsibility and Showing respect. This is something you can reinforce at home by including the WAVES in your compliments and reinforcements. Example, “I can see you are really working hard to achieve your goals each night when you are working on your homework” or “Wow, you really exhibited responsibility by keeping your room clean and putting your dirty clothes in the laundry basket.” Keep surfing those WAVES!

We have almost reached the end of Marking Period 1. Just a reminder that report cards are accessed through Home Access Center (HAC). If you have not logged into HAC yet, you will want to get that set up as soon as possible so you will be able to view the report card. Our report cards are Standards Based report cards. This means the students work all year on mastering the various content standards for their grade level. It is not unusual to see many 1s & 2s on the first report cards as students are just being introduced to the content. Teachers will be meeting with you at parent conferences in November to go over your child’s progress for the year. Here is an excerpt from the CSD Report card guide for parents to help you better understand the standards based report cards:

Standards-based grading communicates how students are performing on a set of clearly defined learning targets called standards. The purpose of standards-based grading is to identify what a student knows, or is able to do, in relation to pre-established learning targets. Unlike the traditional grading system, a standards-based grading system measures a student’s mastery of grade level standards by prioritizing the most recent, consistent level of performance. Thus, a student who may have struggled when encountering new material at the beginning of a unit may still be able to demonstrate mastery of key content and concepts by the end of the marking period. Standards-based grading essentially gives students the practice they need and more than one opportunity to demonstrate success. It uses assessments based on prioritized standards and multiple scores per student, which reflect a student’s ability at a specific moment in time. This is in contrast to the traditional grading system, where a student’s performance for an entire marking period is averaged together and typically involves a single overall letter grade. As an example, early quiz scores that may have been low would be averaged together with more proficient performance later in the course, resulting in a lower overall grade than the student’s current performance indicates. The traditional grading system does not always convey precise information regarding student growth. Standards-based report cards separate academic performance from qualities of a learner in order to provide families with a more accurate view of a student’s progress in both academic and behavioral areas. Variables such as responsibility, participation, effort and attendance are reported separately, not as an indicator of a student’s academic performance

Thanks for working with us to make this a great year for your children! We look forward to all the great things yet to come!

Anne Park


The PTA Mitten Tree is Returning!

Please consider helping a Downes family by participating in our annual Mitten Tree. The Mitten Tree helps support families in our school who are in need of clothing and essentials. A great way to share within our community and teach our children about the joy of giving.

For 2021, we will be bringing back the full program, offering all types of clothing, coats, etc. We will also be bringing back the wrapping party held at Downes to get the items packaged up for the children (Date TBD).

There are two ways to participate:

1. Use the Sign Up Genius List ( to sign up to purchase a new item. Either have the item shipped directly to Downes at Attn: Mitten Tree, John R. Downes Elementary School, 220 Casho Mill Rd, Newark, DE 19711 OR drop your item at the school office during regular school hours, any school day except Wednesdays. All items must be received at the school by Thursday, December 9.

2. Want the PTA Elves to shop for you? Donate by visiting Please note in the memo section “Mitten Tree.” Deadline to donate is Thursday, December 9. Note: if you prefer to donate, please do NOT sign up for a specific item.

Contact Lynda Fisher at with questions about the Mitten Tree.

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P. E. Court

SCORE a healthy, happy life with these tips:

From Ms. Spedden

1. Eat nourishing food....refuel you body and mind.

2. Sleep seven to eight hours a night....10 for kids!

3. Keep company with good people....surround yourself with smiles and laughter.

4. Avoid news overdose....balance negative with positive.

5. Get regular exercise/movement. ...60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity!

6. Do something meaningful each yourself and others.

7. Think control how you react and respond to situations.

NOTES From Mrs. Ford:

Why I recommend music as a lifetime activity.....

MUSIC IS GOOD Way to Grow Your BraiN!

Music plays a key role in brain development and growth. It helps with the nurturing of language, motor skills, and emotional intelligence. Music also has a positive effect on memory because it can help you remember things better by associating them with familiar or meaningful pieces of music.

Although music has the greatest cognitive benefits for younger students, ALL ages benefit from music study! Music creates neural pathways linking both sides of the brain more closely. This allows the greater flow of information to each brain hemisphere. The rhythm of the music also helps students to develop coordination and timing to develop fine motor skills. Music often assists in the development of language and reading skills because music and words are both made up of sounds and symbols.

Grow your brain today! Sing, dance, or play an instrument! Make music together as a family! Dance together! Grow that brain and have fun!

Band and Strings Programs Are Back For In-Person Learning!

Mr. Williams and Dr. Kiss brought their "parade of instruments" to the school last month to show our fifth graders the variety of instruction open to all. Interest forms were sent home to inform families and then returned to sign up. Band and Strings teachers met with all interested students to make final determination of the appropriate instrument sizing and selection.

Band and Strings classes have now been underway for the past few weeks, with much progress being shown in correct posture, proper way to hold instruments, and effective embouchure. First sounds made by students were met with enthusiasm and, with practice at home, will be music to everyone's ears soon.

and from Dr. Kiss...

Greetings from the strings music/orchestra program at Downes Elementary School! We’re off to a “sharp shark” start with lessons on Mondays!

Lesson schedules were sent home with students on October 25 and posted to our Class Dojo. If you’re not already a part of the Dojo, please join us if you can! Invites were sent to all parents/guardians. Updates and news will be posted to our Class Dojo.

Students are currently learning to hold their instruments in playing position(s), pluck the strings to play open string notes, and are starting to learn to place the fingers of the left hand down on the fingerboard to play fingered notes. Students will soon begin preparing to learn to use the bow by doing fun bow preparation exercises! Links to YouTube videos will be posted to the Class Story in our Class Dojo when the bow preparation exercises are assigned.

Use the Student Activation Code on page 1 of the Essential Elements 2000 for Strings, Book 1 lesson book at the Hal Leonard Web site address noted inside the front cover (or on the back cover) of the book to create an account and access the free online learning resources that come with the lesson book! Students may listen to, read, and play along with recordings of each exercise in the book, set the tempo of the music to slow or fast, use tempo adjustment software, and access other resources at the Web site to enhance their enjoyment of the learning experience.

Thank you for participating in our strings music/orchestra program for 5th grade students at Downes! Please contact me on email or Class Dojo with any questions or concerns.

– Dr. Kiss, Teacher, Email: Eva.Kiss@Christina.K12.DE.US

From the office of Nurse Trudy...

Change of Clothing

Spills and accidents can occur in school. Please send in a complete change of clothing (pants, shirt, underwear, and socks), in a closable bag for each of your children/child in grades K-5. Having an extra change of clothing in school helps your student be able to change into their own comfortable clothing and return quickly to their classroom to continue learning. Be sure to label the bag with your student's name. Clothes will be stored in the classroom in the evet they are needed. If your student brings home the bag with soiled clothing, please send replacement clothes in a new bag.

In-school COVID Testing

We have begun COVID testing. If you would like your child tested please click this link to register on-line Please make sure you scroll to the bottom of the last page to complete the signature.
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Bank at School is Open!

The Delaware Bank at School Program has opened for the year! On Thursday mornings a edUFCU member service representative will set up a table in the front lobby to accept deposits. Students may open non-custodial edUFCU Share Savings Accounts. This account is opened in the student’s name only and is FREE to open. Students may visit our main branch or Christiana HS branch location to make additional deposits and withdrawals. Students are not able to withdrawn funds at our Downes location.

The Bank at School Program teaches students about financial management by providing a real banking experience. The program helps them learn to take charge of their money; learning to save and spend wisely. Teachers can utilize lessons highlighting the advantages of saving that correlate with the Delaware State Standards in Economics.

Lost and Found

There are already MANY items that have been left behind. The Lost and Found can be found on the steps of the stage in the Downes Cafeteria. If you identify any of the items, please remind your child to come and pick it up.
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