New pre-K classrooms, Chromebooks coming to city schools this year

New pre-K classrooms, Chromebooks coming to city schools this year

Amy Marshall, a kindergarten teacher at Governor Aram J. Pothier Elementary School, prepares her Minion-themed classroom for the return of students. (Breeze photos by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – Thanks to a statewide push for universal pre-K, more families will see their 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool this fall as the city opens three new classrooms with state funds.

The initiative, coordinated by the Woonsocket Education Department in partnership with Woonsocket Head Start, will see two new classrooms open at Governor Aram J. Pothier Elementary School and a third open at one of the city’s Head Start locations.

According to Assistant Special Education Director Dawn Morelle, prior to this year, pre-K classrooms at the city’s public schools were only open to students with individualized education plans, or IEPs, while non-IEP students attended programs run by other area organizations. The two new Pothier classrooms will include a mix of students with and without IEPs. According to Morelle, it will be the first time in at least a decade that non-IEP students attend pre-K in city schools, an arrangement expected to benefit all students.

“Right now, Woonsocket has the most restrictive environment for students with IEPs, and we’re giving them a chance to be in their least restrictive environment,” she said.

Students were selected for the seats by way of a state lottery system that opened in May. Over the past several years, Gov. Gina Raimondo has called for an expansion of the state-funded universal pre-K initiative, with the program expanding by about 270 seats this year. Though the expansion is only about half of what she called for in her initial budget request, the additional seats offer opportunity to communities like Woonsocket, where the number of low-income 4-year-olds enrolled in state or federally-funded pre-K was up to 57 percent last year.

In addition to new pre-K seats, district officials look forward to introducing a new Chromebook policy at Woonsocket High School, where every student will be assigned a computer to take home with them for the first time this year. The new policy is made possible by the purchase of additional Chromebooks funded through a combination of the local budget and a grant from CVS, according to district Chief Operating Officer Alfred Notarianni.

Students in grade 1 through 9 will return to school next Wednesday, Aug. 28, while students in grades 10 through 12 will return next Thursday, Aug. 29. Kindergarteners with last names beginning with A through L return on Wednesday, while those with last names beginning with M through Z return on Thursday.

Over the past month, district staff have been hard at work preparing school buildings for the return of students next week. Though the most noticeable changes are at Leo Savoie Elementary School, where new windows and a boiler were installed over the summer, families will also notice classroom renovations in several buildings, including Woonsocket High School and the Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center.

Several schools were also the site of summer projects sponsored by grants or local community groups. At Citizens Memorial Elementary School, a former classroom was transformed into a fully-equipped fitness center for use by students and families this month thanks to a $100,000 grant from the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils. At Globe Park Elementary School, returning families will find the school library completely renovated, a summer undertaking by the Woonsocket Rotary Club in partnership with Lowe’s.

Supt. Patrick McGee said families will continue to see an emphasis this year on improving attendance rates in all schools as part of the “Be Here” initiative. The district also continues to invest in social-emotional learning, with teachers receiving training on how to identify and respond to mental health issues in students.

Though all of the district’s principals are remaining with their schools, families will see new assistant principals at Woonsocket High School and Hamlet Middle School as former assistant principals Leonora Hughes and Rebecca DelBarone leave the district. The positions were still being filled as of press time this week.

The central office also has several new administrators, including Angela Holt, who will serve as director of curriculum and development. Holt is a former district administrator who most recently served as director of Hope Academy, a charter school in Providence. She will fill a role formerly occupied by Assistant Supt. Jenny Chan-Remka, who left the district last spring and now works in the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District. Michelle Fredericks, the district's new director of human resources and labor relations, also started a position with the Education Department this month.

Amy Corso-Latos, a special education teacher at Citizens Memorial Elementary School, prepares her classroom “Focus Wall” as she gets ready for the start of school next week.


"The new policy is made possible by the purchase of additional Chromebooks funded through a combination of the local budget and a grant from CVS,..." WAIT! WHAT? CVS does more in the community than just pay their PILOT? Go figure.

Wishing the best of luck to all the teachers and administrators for a great opening of school. Looking at the troubles that Providence has had, I am hoping that Woonsocket will be focusing on teaching to the best of their abilities and keeping the bad behaviors at bay. Students who disrupt classrooms not only ruin their own learning environment, but also the learning of others.