2015-09-10 / Front Page

Back to school: 491 children settle in class

By Ryan Gibbs

With temperatures rising above 90 degrees on Tuesday, not everyone said goodbye to the summer. However, for the kids, the season is officially over.

Tuesday marked the first day of school for students at Melrose and Lawn schools, highlighted by new faculty faces and an expanded rollout of Chromebooks.

The Google computers will be provided to all students in the fifth grade, following last year’s introduction of the laptops to third- and fourth-graders. Now, all three grades will utilize the technology.

“This is really an opportunity to maximize the use of these educational tools,” Melrose School principal Carole Petersen said.

The schools have held several Chromebook orientations to introduce incoming third-graders and middle-schoolers to the technology. Petersen said the schools want to focus on personalized learning using the computers, which will make learning more accessible through playlists and other tools. She said the technology will also allow students to receive feedback from teachers on their assignments.

Above, Melrose School principal Carole Petersen welcomes students back to class on Tuesday. Left, friends rejoice after the long summer. 
Photos byAndrea von Hohenleiten Above, Melrose School principal Carole Petersen welcomes students back to class on Tuesday. Left, friends rejoice after the long summer. Photos byAndrea von Hohenleiten Petersen said students will use the laptops to “dig deeper” into their assignments, share what they learn, and collaborate on projects.

Because of the distribution of Chromebooks, Melrose School’s computer lab will be repurposed into a “makerspace,” with the computers themselves moved into the first- and second grade classrooms that do not use Chromebooks. Petersen said the makerspace would be a place where students can create, design, build and collaborate on engineering projects.

“It’s the biggest and most exciting change,” she said. “It’s going to provide students with hands-on experiences allowing them to be creative, experiment, build and invent. It provides endless possibilities, and I’m really excited about it.”

Lawn School principal Nate Edmunds said he had just finished the rollout of Chromebooks, which are new to his school. He said most of the students and parents have completed the orientation and watched a video presentation on how to use, handle and take care of the devices. The fifth-graders are familiar with the devices. They used them at Melrose School last year, he said, and have brought their Chromebooks with them.

New computers will be distributed to Jamestown students starting in third grade. Although the Chromebooks are only in three grades, they will be introduced into sixth, seventh and eighth grades as the fifth-graders progress.

Superintendent Carol Blanchette said there are currently no plans to introduce the devices into kindergarten, first and second grades. Research did not indicate it was necessary, she said. However, the department does have several technology options available to the younger students, including tablets and desktop computers.

The schools will also implement the new science curriculum approved in July that was created using the Guiding Education in Math and Science Network. GEMS-Net follows the new state-mandated Next Generation Science Standards for public schools.

Jamestown will also implement a new strategic plan for the next five years, which was passed by the school board in June. The plan follows the STEAM standard, which adds arts to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program. It also expands world language throughout the grades in both schools.

Edmunds said he liked the focus on problem solving and self-reliance in the STEAM curriculum. It builds students’ critical thinking, he said.

As for the first day of school, Petersen said it went “great” at the elementary school. The students were greeted by Petersen and other faculty members as they walked into the building.

“Kids were here this morning on the playground excited about coming back,” she said. “Everyone had a lot of enthusiasm.”

Edmunds said the first day at the middle school went “very smoothly,” and the orientation went well.

Jamestown has several new faculty members this year, including school psychologist Maggy Bell, math interventionist Beth Roman, and physical education teacher Liv Gunnarsson. They were all appointed at the brief School Committee meeting on Sept. 3. Also starting this year are speech pathologist Christine DiGiovanni and social worker Kathleen Soares, whose appointments were approved in July. DiGiovanni and Soares were introduced to parents at a kindergarten orientation Tuesday morning at Melrose.

According to Blanchette, Gunnarsson is originally from Providence and has about three years of experience as a phys ed teacher. DiGiovanni was previously at Meeting Street School, and has experience with diagnostic speech and language evaluations. Bell was previously at Barrington Middle School, where she was school psychologist for 10 years. She will start on Monday.

“She’s going to bring a lot of informed support in terms of decision making,” Blanchette said.

Soares has experience working in schools and hospices, and has done both clinical and educational social work. Blanchette said Soares and Bell will work closely as a team.

“We’re looking forward to having them here together,” she said.

The grounds have also seen some changes, including a resurfaced playground with wood chips at Melrose School and two new filling stations for water bottles at Lawn School. Also, report cards are now aligned with Common Core State Standards.

The last day of school is slated for June 16, pending winter weather. The school year also eliminates the February vacation in favor of a four-day break comprising the Friday before Presidents Day and the following Monday.

The enrollment at Melrose School this year stands at 278 students, with 45 new students in grades one through four. Lawn has 213 students, with 29 of those new to the district.

For the first time, the middle school sent four graduates to Narragansett High School, along with four other teens who are new to the area. Edmunds was informed by one of his former students that her first day at the school went well. Also, parents of newly enrolled North Kingstown High students reported a good first day for Jamestown residents, as usual.

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