2017-08-31 / Front Page

Lawn, Melrose begin school year with big academic shoes to fill

BY RYAN GIBBS

When Jamestown students return Tuesday to their classrooms on Melrose and Lawn avenues, they will begin another academic year at one of the state’s top-performing districts.

Superintendent Ken Duva received this past spring’s results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers just in time for the 2017-18 academic year to commence. Taken by fourth- and eighth-graders, Melrose School was the highest-ranking public elementary school in both math and English, while Lawn finished third in both those subjects among middle schools.

“That is a huge accomplishment for our schools, for our children and for our teachers,” Duva said. “It shows the dedication that they have and the knowledge that we have in the district.”

The statewide tests are graded on a five-point scale. In English, 80 percent of the district’s fourth-graders and 72 percent of the eighth-graders received a score of either four or five, which means their tests met or exceeded the proficiency standards. On the math portion, 84.6 percent of fourth-graders and 61.9 percent of eighth-graders received the two highest scores.

According to Duva, 483 children will return to class Tuesday, including 266 students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade and 217 middle schoolers. Roughly 100 of these students come from military families.

“It’s a good percentage of our population,” Duva said. “Military children bring such a dynamic quality to the school experience for us. One the greatest qualities of Jamestown is having the population of the military families that come in, and getting to meet them and know them.”

This school year will mark Duva’s first full year as superintendent. He was promoted after Carol Blanchette departed the district to become the state’s chief of teaching.

“It’s very exciting to be opening the school year as superintendent as opposed to changing positions mid-year,” he said.

The principals at the schools both are planning welcome events on the first day. Lawn principal Nate Edmunds is looking forward to introducing students to their new teachers.

“I want to make it exciting for kids when they first come into school,” Edmunds said. “We do have a good portion of new students to the school, as well as all the fifth-graders, so introducing everyone and having them get an eye on all the students is fun.”

As in past years, the faculty at Melrose will greet children on the playground on the first day. Three days later, principal Carrie Petersen will host a school-wide assembly that includes a special activity for the students. She will ask the group a question, such as which students are in a certain homeroom or are the children of sailors, and the students will step to a line on the auditorium’s floor. Petersen said it helps the younger students get to know their teachers and classmates.

“We can get to know each other in a larger way,” she said.

One of the biggest changes in the district is the addition of a Spanish program at Melrose. The language will be taught semiweekly to all elementary grade levels for the first time. The rollout follows a six-week pilot program for kindergartners and firstgraders in the spring.

“I plan for all kids to receive Spanish instruction by the end of September,” Petersen said.

The administration said it is looking forward to the fresh school year. Duva is excited to see the smiles on the students’ faces and the excitement a new school year brings. “Having the summer break, it’s been quiet, and it will just be great to have that chatter and high spirit in the schools again,” he said

“We’re super excited to start up,” Petersen said. “My favorite part is saying hello again to all the students and just getting back into the groove.”

“It’s strange being here without the kids,” Edmunds added. “We’re ready, the school looks fantastic, everyone’s re-energized and everyone’s ready for the kids to come back. It’s an exciting time.”

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