PACK is Back

PACK also known as Universal Access makes a return to DCIS

Kaitlyn M. and Camilla S.

PACK also known as Universal Access makes a return to DCIS

Morgan C., Sophia T., and Kirsten L.

 

Everyone learns at a different pace. For this reason, PACK, otherwise known as ‘Universal Access’ in the Etiwanda School District is used to benefit each individual at their own unique level. 

PACK has been a strong program on campus for nearly 18 years, originating when Terry Embleton founded Day Creek in 2004. 

“He wanted to build a seventh period into the school day that would give every student an opportunity to be regrouped into what they need when they need it. So that was called Universal Access time,” said Deputy Superintendent and former Day Creek principal, Mrs. Sprague. 

PACK is based on how well students score on their i-Ready assessments. Each trimester, students receive a new PACK class based on their most recent scores. This information is used to categorize students into different classes to fit their specific learning needs. 

“PACK is an acronym. It means ‘personally achieving character and knowledge.’ The purpose of it is twofold, there’s character and the knowledge part,” said Mr. Apodaca, Day Creek’s principal. 

For the character part of PACK, Mrs. Gaines, the school counselor, provides a slideshow to teachers about the character trait of the month. These slides provide students with social-emotional learning opportunities and character education.

“On Mondays, we have character development. The purpose of that is to develop our character and allow teachers class time to focus on character development. We use a social emotional learning curriculum and Character Strong curriculum to create these lessons,” said Mr. Apodaca.

Because of Covid, PACK was removed from virtual instruction. With a return to campus, 6th and 7th grade students were introduced to PACK for the first time as middle school students. Students were able to hide academic and behavioral needs behind a screen for a year and a half. Now that students are learning in person, this is no longer an option. 

“It’s interesting, I think a lot of people lately are blaming everything on Covid and the shutdown. Some of it is true. But we have seen an increase in certain behaviors. [There is] still a lot of immature behavior that isn’t typically seen in middle school,” said Mr. Apodaca. 

Following Covid, there have also been social-emotional, anxiety-related concerns due to schoolwork, racial issues, and an overall feeling of school safety. This makes the character slideshows on Monday that much more important.

“[It’s] all about what those lessons have inside of them, what can be done in any situation, time or environment,” said Mrs. Gaines. 

During the remainder of the week, students participate in a math or language arts PACK class in their academic groups for 50 minutes each day. 

“Some students need more time; some students need very little time. We call it Universal Access time because it provides every student with what they need when they need it. And during your PACK time, you get an opportunity to take that content to the next level,” said Mrs. Sprague. 

There are a variety of learners at Day Creek. If they’re at a high level, PACK allows students to excel with others who can maintain that same tempo. However, if they are at a lower level, they are able to learn without feeling rushed. With a proper learning speed and similarity in learning environment, students can excel in a class catered to their needs. 

“It makes a big difference because we are so different with everything. We all have different needs, and it’s just a great way to get students the information or the skills that they specifically need,” said 7th-grade teacher, Mrs. Miller. ‘

PACK plays an important role for kids coming back from online learning. Teachers believe it is a great way to improve students’ academic and mental ability. 

“There were so many things going on besides academics that [students] had to focus on. But PACK has been so wonderful because it has been a great way for us to fill in those gaps that may have happened throughout missing a year and a half of school,” said Mrs. Miller. 

Teachers even suggest that PACK may bring a positive attitude when working with others at the same level.   

“[They] learn to really enjoy [PACK], especially the idea that they’re all at that same level and can relate to each other really well and try to do some fun things by getting them thinking in ways that they normally wouldn’t during their school day,” said 7th-grade teacher, Mr. Evans. 

Though teachers find PACK beneficial, the majority of students share their opinion. When a poll was taken from 6th, 7th and 8th-grade classes, the results revealed that 119 students do not like PACK and only 44 students enjoy PACK. 

“I guess PACK is nice because its work is fitted to your needs, but I can really just get that by working in a regular class rather than just doing it in a separate one,” said 8th grader, Ashima N. 

Some students might think that PACK is a “waste of time” or that it isn’t beneficial. And maybe fixing the way the teacher engages would help. 

“In Math PACK, instead of giving us regular 8th-grade worksheets [teachers should] actually teach us how to do it,” said 7th-grader, Kelly C. 

Although PACK appears to be unpopular for most students, others find it beneficial. 

“[PACK is beneficial] because you get to work with other students that you could both improve on the same [things],” said 7th grader, Avery C. 

When students recognize that they are surrounded by those with similar abilities, each of them collaborating as a team, PACK classes can function successfully, benefiting students across the academic spectrum. 

[PACK] encourages you to grow more while being challenged. It makes me push myself harder to meet that level,” said Gavin P.