PAWTUCKET – Students returning for the 2017-2018 school year next week will find numerous facility upgrades, new academic initiatives, and expanded programs.

Pawtucket students head back to school next Tuesday, Aug. 29. Bus routes have been posted and are available at www.valleybreeze.com .

School Supt. Patti DiCenso hosted a meet and greet event at the new and improved Potter Burns Elementary School Monday. The school underwent a complete health and safety renovation this year.

While Potter Burns students head back to their school from a temporary stay at the Pawtucket Annex, students at Nathanael Greene Elementary School will be the new tenants at the Annex, as similar work is done at their school this year. The bid for the Greene work is expected to be awarded this Thursday, Aug. 24, and the school should be ready for opening day 2018.

“It’s a big lift, with lots of moving parts, but our goal is (to) have a one-year turnaround for Greene,” DiCenso told The Valley Breeze. “Next year we will be moving Greene back to their new improved school and begin to transition JMW to their permanent home at the Annex site.”

Other “student-centered resource investments” this year included new student toilet room renovations and replacement of boilers at Goff Junior High School, toilet room renovations and a new faculty toilet room at Slater Junior High, renovations to heating systems at Cunningham Elementary, and a new fire suppression system at Tolman High.

The Pawtucket School Department, with help from the school board and city officials, continues to make “critical improvements” to all city schools in accordance with its capital improvement plan, said DiCenso.

The renovations at Potter Burns represent the most significant capital improvement project undertaken in many years.

Other investments this year include:

• $46,000 for 120 desks, 215 activity tables, and 510 student chairs at Baldwin Elementary.

• $78,000 for 240 desks, 380 chairs, 56 science tables and 50 whiteboards at Goff.

• And $12,000 for 52 white boards at Slater.

At the high school level, school officials continue their hard work to ensure that students graduate ready to take on college and careers, said DiCenso. They continue to increase the rigor of course offerings and the number of students taking AP classes. This year, students have signed up for 59 Advanced Course Network courses for college credit and, in some cases, certifications in career and technical programs.

Students who have just graduated from high school are being referred to the Rhode Island Promise Program, the state’s free community college initiative. Last Thursday, the schools had 21 students attend drop-in centers to complete an application and other paperwork.

For students who need to recover course work, the district last year developed a program to encourage them to do so. Over the summer, 360 Shea and Tolman students attended the summer program, completing 691 courses and recovering 345 credits.

The school district this year is investing in more teachers to support the new STEAM initiative, a move to add art and design to the national movement of increasing technology and engineering programs. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) allows teachers and students in Pawtucket middle schools to learn and apply concepts in multiple disciplines.

For a third straight year, schools will expand early childhood programs, giving more children access to pre-kindergarten learning. Fallon Memorial School will operate three state-funded pre-K programs this year.

The technology department this year will expand its 1:1 initiative into grades 3, 11 and 12. The initiative has brought 1,700 electronic devices to students in grades 3-12. STEM labs at the secondary level are getting new workstations, and the school district is continuing its Google Classroom initiative in all schools. All K-2 students now have full access to computer carts at each elementary school.

School officials have increased staff to accommodate individualized instruction for middle school students.

Baldwin School has been revamped “to have two schools in one,” said DiCenso. Staff has been added to have a master principal, Edna Coia, who oversees the two schools. There are two K-5 schools with complete staffing and individual headmasters who are certified principals.

The schools this year are adding a family support staff member who will work at Baldwin, Cunningham and Slater to provide home visits and increased advocacy for families.

Officials have partnered with the PTA to apply for a national grant to pilot a community school model at Little Elementary. A full-time community school coordinator has been added through a grant to support the initiative.

Next month, school officials will host their first PTO workshop in hopes of having PTOs support each other to create more robust programs. The PTOs will have a full agenda, including helping to expand the No Bully program in the community.

Pawtucket schools this year will provide multiple pathways to proficiency in Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish through world language and dual language immersion programs, all leading to official recognition on a high school diploma. The district is growing its Spanish dual language immersion program at Greene Elementary, adding a Portuguese FLEX (foreign language exploratory) program at Baldwin, and continuing to build the Chinese K-12 program at Potter-Burns and all middle and high schools.

City schools this year will pilot a community lunch program for all students at Cunningham and Baldwin. The Community Eligibility Provision is a program available to districts with a minimum of 40 percent “identified” students, those who are directly certified in receiving free meals by participation in SNAP or other programs.

Pawtucket officials decided, with the guidance of the Rhode Island Department of Education, to implement the program at the two schools. All students will eat breakfast and lunch for free. Families will not need to complete any lunch applications.

There is a requirement for the district to send home to families an income survey for the purpose of determining the continued “free and reduced” enrolled population at each school.

Free and reduced enrollments are significant to determining how some funding, including state aid, is allocated to the district.

“We are excited about this new program and confident that it will prove to be successful for our students,” said DiCenso.

Visit pawtucket1.schooldesk.net for updates on the 2017-2018 school year.

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