Educators focused on literacy as students return to school

Aug 31, 2017

Back-to-school clothes have been purchased, pencils sharpened and backpacks filled in anticipation of the new school year, beginning Sept. 5 for Wareham Public Schools.

The schools have been preparing to welcome students back, too. The elementary schools will focus heavily on literacy this year and implement a morning sharing time, while Wareham Middle School students will be greeted by the Asgard Council and a new fight song. Click here for more information on changes at the middle school. The high school has freshened up its cafeteria and is continuing to go digital.

Minot Forest Elementary

Minot is welcoming a new group of third graders and literacy will be a greater focus this year, said Principal Joan Seamans. A literacy consultant will work with teachers, allowing them to “hyperfocus” on making sure students have the literacy tools they need, Seamans said.

Another new feature at the school is a morning meeting. This year, every classroom will have a morning meeting to build community in the classroom. Each class will have time in the morning where students can share information about their lives.

“The sharing piece is important,” Seamans said. “It can also be a teachable moment. If something comes up, teachers can address it right then and there.” She said this will help with behavior in the long run.

Admin Patrol is a rewards system that started at the end of last year and will be continued through this academic year. Three administrators select a student each week to receive a certificate for displaying positive behavior. Then, administrators surprise them at their home, in daycare, in an after-school activity or wherever they happen to be. They are given a balloon and a pin, which they’re asked to wear on Fridays.

Minot building replacement

Steady progress is being made on a plan to replace the 52-year-old Minot Forest Elementary School, which suffers from a number of structural deficiencies.

“It’s getting to the exciting stage where we’re looking at grade configurations and locations,” said Shaver-Hood. “The plan is really taking shape.”

Currently, the school’s security measures, electrical wiring and fire safety components are outdated. Many items, such as windows, classroom floor tiles, an elevator, boilers and ceiling tiles need replacing. Additional classroom space is required, too.

Members of the Minot Forest School Building Committee have been exploring rebuilding options since last September. In February, the district learned that the Massachusetts School Building Authority invited the district to launch a feasibility study regarding new school construction. The study will develop blueprint for a new school.

Shaver-Hood said the committee secured an owner’s project manager, which is required by the state to oversee the rebuilding process.

“We’re now in the stage of looking for an architectural firm,” she said. “Once the firm is decided upon then we can start looking at the nitty gritty details.”

John W. Decas Elementary School

After John W. Decas elementary school literacy test scores were “too good to be true” according to School Committee members, administrators want to build on that momentum this coming school year.

In February, 60 percent of students entering kindergarten in Wareham tested significantly below the average literacy rate.

To remedy that, several changes were made, including the purchase of a language training program for young students and the launching of a five-week summer program to help struggling kindergarten students prepare for first grade.

In April, students were re-tested after receiving 20 to 25 days of reading intervention. By June, that number dropped to 6 percent.

Shaver-Hood said partnering with area preschools should help to further improve literacy rates.

“We’re going to be doing intensive work at the beginning of the year with some of our kindergarten students,” she said. “We’re very excited about the results and the potential for student improvement.”

Schedule change, new look

Decas Interim Principal Bethany Chandler said parents should be aware that a brief experiment, the school is going back to a five day a week schedule for classes such as art and gym. Last year, the school tried out a six day schedule that shifted what day specials were held.

Chandler noted that several upgrades will greet students too, including a fresh coat of colorful paint in one wing, new ceilings, tiles and a revamped staff break room.

On Aug. 29, parent volunteers and staff got their hands dirty in the school’s courtyard, preparing it for a new outdoor classroom.

Wareham High School

Last year, every student at Wareham High School was issued a Chromebook laptop in a process that went “scary smooth” according to Principal Scott Palladino.

This year, Palladino said a few more innovations are on the way, allowing students to fully take advantage of the new technology.

“It’s a fun time to be in education,” said Palladino, noting that the college application process has gone digital and print textbooks are on the way out.

“It all goes hand in hand with the Chromebooks,” he said. “Now we’re able to build off that. There were so many limitations for students who didn’t have easy access to these machines.”

Last year, high school students and Wareham Middle School students in grades six through eight were issued personal Chromebook laptops to use at home and in the classroom. School officials had tested the Chromebooks on a smaller, trial basis in some classrooms. Financial support from voters at previous Town Meetings helped purchase the computers.

Palladino said the biggest issue was ensuring students arrived prepared to work.

“It’s like cellphones,” he said. “Students come in with their cellphones charged. We have to get them in the mindset, ‘OK, I need my cellphone and my Chromebook charged.”

Palladino said with the laptops it will be easy for students to access Naviance, a popular career-readiness and college search website.

Palladino said school guidance counselors will work with students in helping navigate the site, which allows students to search for scholarships, send college applications and see when those applications are received.

“It’s starting to become readily available in every high school in the state and will help bring us into the 21st century,” he said.

High school cafeteria

While not academic in nature, Palladino said students should be looking forward to one other major change – a renovated cafeteria.

New floors, tables and chairs, a fresh coat of paint and bar-style seats and tables set up near the windows will greet students.

Palladino said Director of Food Services Rob Shaheen did some budget tightening to afford the renovations that were a quarter century overdue.

“[Shaheen] was able to create an awesome atmosphere in the cafeteria for our students,” said Palladino. “Everything there was 25 years old.”