New school year means fresh start in Pawtucket

New school year means fresh start in Pawtucket

Move of 6th-graders among the biggest changes

PAWTUCKET - Throw out the old grades, last year's lunchroom drama, and anything else you would rather forget. It's time for a new school year and a fresh start.

The 2013-2014 school year that begins next Wednesday, Aug. 28, will bring plenty of changes for everyone with a stake in Pawtucket schools.

Students returning for the first day of school next week will find plenty of changes awaiting them, including new administrators and teachers, and in many schools, a reconfiguration of classrooms.

Supt. Deborah Cylke told The Breeze Monday that school officials will have all information finalized for the start of school, including bus routes, by Wednesday of this week.

One of the biggest adjustments will be for Pawtucket's incoming 6th-graders, who for the first time will be attending the city's junior high schools as part of an effort to address expanding enrollment numbers.

Staff and volunteers have been hard at work this summer transforming local schools. Slater Junior High School and neighboring Cunningham Elementary School have received special attention, as volunteers from Smithfield-based Fidelity Investments have put more than 3,200 hours into the schools, said Wendy Lessard, senior community relations manager for the company.

According to Lessard, part of the goal of Fidelity's expansion to new "partner schools" in Pawtucket was to create a "really welcoming environment" for teachers and students returning to school, "especially the 6th-graders" who will be there for the first time.

The volunteer force from Fidelity also donated bags of supplies for all teachers at the schools, allowing them to avoid having to go out and get many of the supplies they normally buy on their own at the start of school.

Repair work will be ongoing at a number of local schools as officials look to replace ceilings that either collapsed in the spring or were found to be structurally deficient. School leaders have determined that more than $742,000 in additional repairs need to be done in addition to the $240,000 in temporary repairs already completed earlier this year. The work will necessitate even more shifting of classrooms and people.

Pawtucket's two main high schools, Tolman High and Shea High, will continue this year under the state-mandated "transformation" process. That will again mean changes in schedules, classroom configurations, and staffing, as teachers and administrators continue to seek out the best ways to improve the high schools' lagging graduation rates.