2005-08-25 / Front Page

Say goodbye to summer! School bells ring Sept. 1

By Donna K. Drago

With Superintendent Kathy Sipala looking on, custodian Kevin Barrett works on the drywall in the grade 5 wing at the Lawn Avenue School. Photo by Donna Drago With Superintendent Kathy Sipala looking on, custodian Kevin Barrett works on the drywall in the grade 5 wing at the Lawn Avenue School. Photo by Donna Drago There will be many new faces when the Jamestown schools start classes on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 8:15 a.m.

Superintendent Kathy Sipala said Tuesday that as of then she had “52 new registrations” in grades kindergarten to eight. Fourteen new students will be attending North Kingstown High School, she said.

“They’re still coming in,” Sipala said about new students.

Though recent years have been considered a period of declining enrollment, Sipala said last year ended with 511 students enrolled. Next week there will 518 students attending classes at the Lawn and Melrose schools.

Sipala said that the explanation for the rush of new students is the number of military families living in Jamestown that have a parent attending the Naval War College in Newport.

“They’re renting houses here” and will be here for a year, said Sipala, who wondered aloud “if this is the start of a trend.”

Of the 52 new students, all but 10 are from the military families, Sipala said.

Because of the large number of new families in the school district, the school will hold a family orientation day on Aug. 30 to get everyone acclimated to their new schools, Sipala said.

There are also several new staff members, long-term substitutes, and new teaching arrangements at the schools this year, Sipala said.

Grade 7 English will be taught by Tom Carney, most recently from Portsmouth Middle School. Faith Kaplan will take over for Karyn Kauffman, on maternity leave for the year, in the Lawn school’s music department.

Jamestown resident Carol Melucci will substitute for the year in second grade special education, and Erin Covell will take over a grade 3 classroom.

Patricia McDevitt, a former long-term substitute, will become a full-time teacher in the autism program. Sipala said that they had to create the new position because the number of grade levels in the autism program has increased to three and can no longer be taught by just one teacher.

For the first time in the schools’ history, teachers will be “job sharing,” Sipala said.

She explained that many young women with children of their own are finding benefits to job sharing with others in the same situation because they can spend time with their children and still have their career. We negotiated this in the 2003 teacher contract, Sipala said. This is the first time anyone has asked to try the job sharing option, she noted.

In pre-school Gina Calise and her sister-in-law Julie Calise will share the work load with the island’s smallest children. “This works great,” Sipala said, because some kids go Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while others are Tuesday and Thursday students. So each of the teachers will see the same children on each of their working days.

Another job sharing team is M.J. Moynihan and Sara Sweetman who will “share the caseload” of the kindergartengrade 1 resource teaching position.

“With careful attention to detail, this is a nice arrangement for everyone,” Sipala said.

On improvements to the school, Sipala said that there have been a lot of cosmetic changes at the Lawn school, and that the major changes are in the art room, a new technology room, and in the grade 5 section.

Sipala said that the grade 5 section has been transformed into completely separate classrooms that have actual walls instead of partitions made of lockers or bookcases. The classrooms are fed by a hallway next to the library that leads to the three rooms, she noted.

Next to the grade 5 section is the new technology room that used to be shared with the art room.

“We used to have sticky clay next to the tiny motors,” Sipala said, pointing out that the two were not compatible. Now, with the closing of a grade 5 classroom last year, space opened up to give the technology, or robotics program its own space, the school superintendent said.

In the art room, a complete facelift, including new equipment, new paint, new brightly colored furniture and a brand-new kiln will greet students when they show up for their first art class of the year, Sipala said.

She credited a new enthusiasm for visual arts by parents and the group Art In Motion with enabling the school to give the art room a boost.

Some $5,500 from an art auction held by AIM, along with matching funds from the school, allowed for the renovations, Sipala said. An effort by parent Julia Montminy and donations from the Ali Dunn Packer Memorial Fund allowed them to buy the new kiln, Sipala added.

Funds will also be available for a guest artist series, Sipala said.

At the Melrose Avenue School, students can expect individual assessments in both reading and math during the month of September so that staff can get a handle on each student’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a program of differentiated instruction for each one, according to Principal Kathy Almanzor. She said differentiated instruction “focuses more on the individual,” and finds ways to challenge the top-level learners while coming up with remedial action for students who need a little extra help.

In grade 3, students will be trying out a new math curriculum, a program “given to us” that is called “Everyday Math,” Almanzor said.

“It’s more rigorous” than the previous MathLand program, she said, noting that the third grade teachers went for training this summer and are ready to try it out.

“We’ll evaluate how well it worked” at the end of the year, Almanzor said about the pilot program.

Parents will be receiving a new brochure, designed by members of the School Improvement Team, that gives families an overview of the school and answers frequently asked questions, Almanzor said. She credited parents Mary Keen, a former School Committee member, Sally Schott and Jane Wright for putting the new brochure together.

It will be mailed to each student’s home, Almanzor said.

Improvements to the building include a new blue tile floor in the pre-school, new carpeting in grade 3, and the Fibar mulch at the playground has been fluffed up and is “nice and soft” for everyone to play on.

Almanzor said that she is excited to meet all the new families as well as to greet all the returning students next Thursday. Students in pre-school and kindergarten will begin school on Sept. 6.

The bus schedule appeared in the Aug. 11 edition of the Press.

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