Crawford County school districts will hold their first day of classes for the 2017-18 school year next week.

Alma, Cedarville, Mountainburg and Mulberry-Pleasant View Bi-County school districts will begin classes on Monday. Classes at Van Buren School District begin Wednesday.

Superintendents at Crawford County school districts are looking forward to the new school year with planned expansions in curriculum, new building projects and a focus on more hands-on learning techniques for students, they said.

Several major construction projects are scheduled to begin this year at Van Buren School District campuses, said Superintendent Harold Jeffcoat.

Construction on a new 500-student elementary school just off Northridge Drive will begin during the spring semester. The name of the new school has yet to be determined.

As early as October, a track replacement project will begin at Van Buren High School. The renovation will include new drainage for the field, new concession stand with restrooms and a new main entrance.

Walking trails to Central and King Elementary schools will be built this school year, with trails at other campuses being proposed for the future.

The high school cafeteria serving area will be redesigned to allow for greater meal options for students and improved operational efficiency for staff.

Mulberry-Pleasant View and Mountainburg school districts also have improvement projects going on during the upcoming school year.

Air-conditioning systems are being installed at both the Mulberry High School and Pleasant View School gymnasiums, said Mulberry-Pleasant View Bi-County School District Superintendent Lonnie Myers. A kitchen expansion and some classroom renovations are planned for Marvin Primary.

Plans also have begun to build a new 500-750 seat auditorium at the Mulberry High School. School officials are working with MAGH Architecture on the design.

Mountainburg School District broke ground on its first and only saferoom at the northern end of the district’s football field on Wednesday. The building also will act as a field house and physical education room, said Superintendent Dennis Copeland.

Each school district also is focused on improving and expanding curriculum.

Both Van Buren and Alma school districts remained focused on STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - curriculum.

This is the fourth year for Alma School District’s robotics program at the high school. The program continues to grow and is being expanded into the lower grade levels, said Superintendent David Woolly.

Alma High School students also can take a college level computer programming course in addition to an introductory first-year course taught at the high school.

New this year at ASD is an apps programming course, being taught at the middle school, during which students can learn to write programs for smartphone apps.

In Van Buren, students can engage in STEM classes at all grade levels.

Both school districts also are continuing their Project Lead the Way curriculum, which allows students to learn problem solving strategies, critical and creative thinking, and how to communicate and collaborate using computer science, biomedical science and engineering.

At Cedarville School District, a new science lab is being introduced this year to elementary students, said Superintendent Kerry Schneider.

Teachers and students will be able to participate in science activities in the lab that could not be accomplished in the regular classroom.

Mulberry-Pleasant View students will benefit this year from more personalized teaching and learning techniques through the work of organized professional learning committees.

Also opening this year is the River Valley Virtual Academy, available through the VBSD. It is the only K-12 virtual conversion charter school in the state.

Cedarville School District also will continue its after-school program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.