Elementary projects, career readiness top BMR priorities

Elementary projects, career readiness top BMR priorities

Erin Brown, a senior at Blackstone-Millville Regional High School, prepares her flag for the start of colorguard season during band and colorguard camp at the high school last week. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

BLACKSTONE – As students return to school next Wednesday, Aug. 28, families can expect to see a number of changes around the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District.

Several facilities projects have happened during the summer, most notably at the John F. Kennedy/Augustine F. Maloney Elementary School complex, where the JFK side of the building has seen a full replacement of its windows and doors. According to Supt. Jason DeFalco, the energy efficient windows were also accompanied by a new boiler, a project supported by a combination of funds from the towns and the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

“We’ve done a ton of work in this area over the summer. The custodial crew is hard at work getting the buildings ready,” he said.

This year, parents of JFK/AFM students can expect to see a new dropoff and pickup pattern in place following a reorganization of the buildings’ administration. For the first time this year, the two schools will be under the leadership of one principal, former Woonsocket Assistant Supt. Jenny Chan-Remka, who started in the position July 1. Steven Tringali, the former principal at JFK, will stay on as assistant principal of both schools, while Carol Brown, the former principal at AFM, retired last year.

In addition the JFK/AFM projects, schools throughout the district received updated phone systems allowing teachers to make outgoing calls from the classrooms and will receive a camera and security system update this fall. According to DeFalco, the security update is twofold, with new hardware as well as updated training and security protocols on track to be introduced in the schools.

“We will see more layers,” he said. “Not right away, but very, very early in the school year.”

BMR High School also received a new fire system this summer with new fire panels, heat sensors and smoke sensors. Both Frederick W. Hartnett Middle School and JFK Elementary School will be receiving new hot water heaters before the start of school next week.

“These are projects that we really needed to do and with a lot of support through both communities and a lot of support through the School Committee, we were able to get things done,” said DeFalco.

The town has also been hard at work over the summer, with crews finishing up a full replacement of the Lincoln Street Bridge between the high school and JFK/AFM complex this week. Blackstone Public Works Supt. Jimmy Sullivan said the work will be complete by the start of school.

At the high school, the focus is on career and workforce readiness with a new advanced manufacturing program launching in partnership with other area school districts this fall. According to DeFalco, five BMR freshmen are signed up to take advanced manufacturing courses alongside students from other districts as part of a unique partnership that aims to keep students in-district while teaching workforce skills they previously looked for at technical schools. The classes will be taught in the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Education Hub in Northbridge.

“We’re trying to create options for our community so these kids can stay with us,” he said.

In the area of academics, the district is launching a new K-12 science curriculum this year after a curriculum update process that started last year. Classrooms will also be using new literacy resources, including myON, an E-reader-based reading service that many elementary and middle school families were introduced to over the summer. As of Aug. 1, students throughout the district had used the program to read 389 books over 88 reading hours, according to data from the program.

Students in 2nd and 3rd grade will also be getting tablets to use in the classrooms thanks to a $25,000 donation. At the middle school, 30 new laptops will assist in revamping the robotics program.