Growing in Grain Valley
The Grain Valley School District has been a Launch partner for nearly four years. “We were looking to provide our students with more opportunities,” says Dr. Beth Mulvey, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services. “Primarily, we liked the philosophy, mission and vision of Launch, and that was important to us as we looked to serve our students who would be taking online classes. The bottom line was, we wanted a good product for our kids.” Launch Director Dr. Nichole Lemmon visited the district to present to a team of administrators, and
the school officially partnered with Launch in 2018.
Meeting Student Needs
From the beginning, Grain Valley has allowed students to utilize Launch courses in a variety of ways. They can enroll in an online class as a solution for a scheduling conflict, or they can take classes that aren’t available at Grain Valley High School. The district also allows students to take a full Launch schedule, such as former graduate Tyler Hagan who went online with Launch so he could compete in BMX races nationwide.
“We appreciate the various ways that Launch has been able to help us serve our students,” Dr. Mulvey says. And she also appreciates the relationship that she and her associates have with the Launch team. “It’s nice to have a partnership where I can just pick up the phone, make a call and know the person I’m talking to,” Dr. Mulvey says. And this is exactly what she did in late 2021 when the district was looking for a way to serve struggling readers.
“We were working to find additional ways to serve students with Dyslexia,” Dr. Mulvey says. “We wanted to provide support that reached beyond the traditional school day, but it was really tough organizing a high-quality program during after-school hours that could accommodate students districtwide in one location.” Dr. Mulvey called Dr. Lemmon, and the two constructed a plan to offer Grain Valley students a chance to enroll into the Launch Into Reading academy—a virtual learning academy that is taught by highly qualified teachers who offer focused instruction and personalized support. The academy was previously only offered in the summer months, though, so both Launch and Grain Valley worked to make it an option for the Spring 2021 semester.
Launch Into Reading
Dr. Mulvey and her crew immediately began reaching out to parents of students with dyslexia and parents of students in Tier 2 and Tier 3 reading intervention groups, and the Launch team got to work hiring certified teachers and building an after-hours schedule that could meet the needs of Grain Valley families. Two teachers were hired to serve the at-risk students, and they offered a total of three hours of after-school engagement on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“I had a group of first and second graders,” says Kym Nelms, Launch Elementary teacher who has her Special Reading K-8 Certification with the state of Missouri and taught Grain Valley’s Launch Into Reading course. “I started out with assessments on the first two nights we met, then grouped the students accordingly based on their level of needs.” Nelms further divided her class into groups of four and five, and spent 20 or so minutes with each small group every session. “Teaching these kids was something I always looked forward to, even after a rough day,” Nelms says.
“We liked the philosophy, mission and vision of Launch, and that was important to us as we looked to serve our students who would be taking online classes.”
Student Success Story
Participating families had an equal appreciation of the class. “The entire experience was very positive, and very flexible,” says Julie White, mother of 8-year-old Cannon (pictured below). Cannon was a second-grade student in Mrs. Nelms’s Launch Into Reading class. “Sometimes we’d be driving to practice, and he’d be on his Zoom call for reading,” Julie says. By the end of the year, Cannon progressed in both his reading skills and level of confidence. “He made huge gains,” Julie says. “When he finished, he was reading with 100% accuracy.”
Cannon’s experience is one of Kym’s favorite success stories. “He was such a hesitant reader when we started, and he didn’t have confidence in himself,” Kym says. “But the more we worked together—and we were able to have a lot of one-on-one time—his confidence grew. He made amazing progress.” Mom agrees. “Before he took this class, he would pretend to read chapter books with his brothers each night,” Julie says. “My older two are strong readers, and they read every night, and Cannon always wanted to read with them but couldn’t. But now, he is able to. His confidence is there.”
Grain Valley at a Glance
K-12 Enrollment: 4,414
High School Population: 1,300
MASA District: Greater Kansas City
School Colors: Blue and White
Fun Fact: Grain Valley was founded in the 1870s and is named for the general character of the grain-producing that happened in the region as well as the geography of the land.