Community Education News

Rec’s and Reviews: Join the Community Education Book Club!

ExitWest coverThe new WDMCS Community Education book club, led by Intercultural Outreach Coordinator Jeanna Bauer, met for the first time on Tuesday, June 20. The club discussed “Little Daughter,” the memoir of Zoya Phan, a political activist from Burma of Karen descent. The discussion was followed by a discussion and Q&A with Mone Aye, co-founder and board president of EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center).

For this month’s Rec’s and Reviews post, WDMCS Community Education is inviting you to join us for our next book club discussion. We will be discussing “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid. The fictional novel follows a young couple, Nadia and Saaed, as they flee violence in their homeland, passing through a magical door that drops them into a completely new and different life.

“It’s a breathtaking novel by one of the world’s most fascinating young writers, and it arrives at an urgent time,” NPR’s review of “Exit West” said. “Hamid encourages to us to put ourselves in the shoes of others, even when they’ve lived lives much harder than anything we’ve endured.”

Join us from 5:30-7:30 on Thursday, Sept. 14, for a book discussion and presentation centered around “Exit West.” Watch the West Des Moines Community Education Facebook page and ”Exit West” book club Facebook event for reminders and updates.

Have questions or want more information? Contact Intercultural Outreach Coordinator Jeanna Bauer at 515-633-5116 or


Made in the Shade: Helping Kids Keep Cool This Summer

People in swimming poolAs temperatures rise this summer, make sure you know the best ways to keep your children safe. A child’s body will not cool down as quickly as an adult’s, and children may not recognize that they are getting too hot or be able to explain it to an adult. Here are some tips from the Polk County Health Department’s 2017 Extreme Heat Toolkit that families and caregivers can use to help keeps kids safe during summer:

  Signs of Heat Exhaustion   Signs of Heat Stroke 
  • Heavy sweating
  • Feeling weak
  • Dizzy
  • Headache
  • High fever (greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Flushed/red skin
  • Lack of sweating
  • Muscle weakness/cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Skin that feels cool and moist
  • Rapid breathing/rapid heart rate

While heavy sweating is a sign of heat exhaustion, a lack of sweat is a sign of heat stroke. Heat stroke can also make a person’s skin feel cool, instead of hot.

Ways to Keep Cool
Beat the heat with light clothing, sunscreen, and fluids. Even if you are not thirsty, drinking water is a great way to stay cool. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light, loose clothes made of cotton will protect kids from the heat and let sweat evaporate to keep them cool. Spending just two hours a day in the air conditioning can also help prevent heat-related illnesses.

The Polk County Health Department recommends families sign up for CodeRED, an automated system that sends out notifications during emergency situations, including extreme heat. Learn more about CodeRED online.

Find more tips and information in the Polk County Health Department’s 2017 Extreme Heat Toolkit.

Read to Stay Up to Speed This Summer

Elementary school student laying on the floor and reading children's books.Summer is a time for family, friends, and fun—but it’s also important for kids to keep learning. Helping your children stay engaged during summer is a great way to make sure they retain what they learned in the past year and ease the transition back to school in the fall.

One of the best ways to keep kids thinking during summertime is reading. Here is a list of summer reading programs from libraries that serve West Des Moines Community Schools families:

Families in Windsor Heights are welcome to join programs at libraries in neighboring cities. Several area businesses are also holding summer reading challenges. Find a full list of reading challenges at

Pairing books with activities or movies is another way to encourage your children to read during summer. You can also make reading at home fun by reading outside, making up stories with your kids, or creating your own reading challenges.

Join Us for the Summer of Learning!

Summer of Learning Catalog Cover - Boy Holding Globe in front of chalk boardAre you wondering how you’re going to keep your kids busy this summer? Join us for the 2017 Summer of Learning! We have many fun, enriching, and affordable learning opportunities available—whether your children need a little extra help with schoolwork or want to expand their knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. Help your child find a program that sounds interesting, fun, or rewarding, and register today!

Check out the 2017 Summer of Learning catalog.

Register for a Summer of Learning class.

Community Education Advisory Council Seeking Representatives for 2017-18

The WDMCS Community Education Advisory Council (CEAC) is a volunteer group of citizens who identify community needs and find ways to meet those needs. The council consists of volunteers who represent the schools and other organizations in the West Des Moines Community School. The CEAC meets monthly during the school year.

About Us

The CEAC operates at the community level to understand and represent the needs of the broader community.

CEAC Graphic Where We Fit

CEAC members are selected to serve because they are involved citizens willing to support programs and processes that uphold the philosophy of Community Education.

Representatives include:

  • Schools
  • Neighborhoods
  • Police Departments
  • Youth/Students
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Library
  • Human Services
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Seniors
  • and other citizens

We currently need representatives from Clive Learning Academy, Crossroads Park Elementary, Stilwell Junior High, and Walnut Creek Campus.

Responsibilities of CEAC members:

  • Attend an orientation meeting (new members).
  • Attend a minimum of six CEAC meetings (September-May).
  • One-year renewable term
  • Serve on a project committee and work cooperatively to achieve goals.
  • Serve as an advocate for WDMCS Community Education.
  • Share emerging community needs, ideas, and concerns that impact the quality of life in the community.
  • Maintain two-way sharing of information between the CEAC and represented group, as appropriate.
  • Review the budget and ensure fiscal responsibility.

If you are intersted in learning more about becoming a member of the Community Education Advisory Council, please contact Shahna Janssen, Director of Community Education, at 515-633-5004 or

Rec’s and Reviews: Thirteen Resources for Talking About “13 Reasons Why”

Official "13 Reasons Why" image: Teenage boy wearing headphones stands in front of a mirror. The mirror shows a reflection of a teenage girl. Text: A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES. BASED ON THE BEST SELLING MYSTERY. 13 REASONS WHY. IF YOU'RE LISTENING, YOU'RE TOO LATE.

(Image source:

Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, has initiated a lot of discussion surrounding teenage mental health. In the series and book, the teenage characters learn about their classmate’s reasons for dying by suicide after her death. The series has proved popular with teenagers and been renewed for a second season.

There is concern in the suicide prevention community that the series glamorizes suicide, sends detrimental messages about mental health, and could be triggering, especially for young people. The series graphically depicts suicide, rape, survivor’s guilt, and other emotionally complex topics that students may not be prepared to process on their own.

District counseling staff want to provide West Des Moines Community Schools families with resources to support discussions about suicide, trauma, and the “13 Reasons Why” series. Please let your school staff and counselors know if there are other ways we can be of assistance to your family.

13 Resources for Talking About “13 Reasons Why”

Tips and Talking Points

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why Talking Points” from SAVE and the Jed Foundation
  2. “Tips for Parents for Talking with Their Children About 13 Reasons Why and Suicide”  from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  3. “Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider” from the Jed Foundation
  4. “‘13 Reasons Why’ Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists
  5. Teachable Moment Using “13 Reasons Why” to Initiate a Helpful Conversation About Suicide Prevention and Mental Health” Video from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists
  6. Preventing Youth Suicide” and “Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators” from the National Association of School Psychologists

Also remember to make sure your children have access to local and national crisis resources:

  1. Your Life Iowa Hotline: 1-855-8111 (24/7)
  2. Your Life Iowa Text Line: Text “TALK” to 855-895-TEXT (8398) (2-10 p.m. daily)
  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7)
  4. ReachOut USA
  5. Download the free “A Friend Asks” app from the Jason Foundation

You may also be interested in:

  1. “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons” (on Netflix)
  2. “Prevention: The Critical Need” by Jack Pransky (a great book that addresses this topic and more)

Open discussions between adults and young people are a powerful way to help students see problems through a different lens. When talking with young people about suicide, remember to focus on wholeness and well-being, rather than on fear. Encourage them to see the feelings they’re experiencing as a storm cloud: noticeable but temporary. Remind them they can make it through the rain.

Thank you to our district counselors for their assistance with this post.

Seniors Come Home 2017

Seniors Come Home May 22, 2017

Students who attended a West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) elementary are invited back for Seniors Come Home. This special event gives high school seniors the opportunity to visit their home elementary schools so teachers and fellow students can wish them well on their upcoming graduation. Seniors Come Home has been a tradition in the WDMCS for more than 20 years.

On Monday, May 22, graduating seniors are invited back to their home schools at the following times:

  • Jordan Creek and Western Hills at 3 p.m.;
  • Crestview at 3:15 p.m.;
  • Clive and Hillside at 3:30 p.m.;
  • Fairmeadows at 3:45 p.m.; and
  • Crossroads Park and Westridge at 4 p.m.

All retired elementary teachers and staff are welcome.

Seniors Come Home is coordinated by Rosemary Brandt (515-633-5012), Service Learning Coordinator. Service Learning is a program of WDMCS Community Education.

Promoting Connections Between Generations

The WDMCS third grade classes visit metro area retirement communities, where students read to the residents. Students prepare by selecting their favorite picture books, reading out loud to peers, and writing interview questions. During their visit, students are paired with a senior and they spend an hour reading and getting to know one another.  The Read to Me program promotes connections between generations, and gives both students and seniors an opportunity to grow and learn.




Meet Kids West Program Assistant Kris Gardner

Kris GardnerThere are still a few days to register for Kids West 2017 Summer Day Camp and the 2017-18 school year! Any West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) child in grades K-6 is eligible for this safe, affordable, and convenient before- and after-school care. Kids West registration materials are due April 7 for returning families and April 12 for potential participants.

All Kids West registrations are managed by Program Assistant Kris Gardner. She has more than 20 years of Kids West knowledge and experience and can help families with registration, financial aid, and any questions they have. She also oversees the new family lottery, which will take place on April 13 this year. While she enjoys all aspects of her job, one thing has always stood out during her 23 years with Kids West.

“My favorite thing is the people I work with,” Gardner said.

To see a full registration timeline and find out more about Kids West registration, please visit our “Registration” page. You can also contact Gardner at 515-633-5018.

Summer of Learning 2017

Summer of Learning Catalog Cover - Boy Holding Globe in front of chalk board

Are you wondering how you’re going to keep your kids busy this summer? We have many fun, enriching, and affordable learning opportunities available! Whether your children need a little extra help in reading, writing, or math, or simply a fun way to expand their knowledge in several subjects, WDMCS Community Education provides a wide variety of activities to choose from.

Summer of Learning Catalog PDF

List of Summer of Learning programs

Register Online