Welcome back to school! It’s been a busy summer of maintenance and renovation projects in the schools, professional development and training for the staff, and overall planning and preparation for a new school year and an anticipated 55 new students. Here are some of the highlights:
• School maintenance and building projects have been a priority for the Town. The high school café has been expanded in the first phase of a project intended to provide additional space for the growing enrollment there. The Pollard main office, some student bathrooms, and counseling offices have been renovated. Many other maintenance and cleaning projects have been tackled in the schools by our incredible team of custodians, tradesman, and contractors who sweated it out all summer to buff floors, clean lockers, and wash windows.
In July the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted to support a new elementary school project to replace the existing Hillside School, and the community will vote on the project November 8th. If the community vote is successful, construction of a new school could start next year!
Water bubblers at all the schools have been tested for actionable levels of lead (.15 ppb), and as of this writing only one bubbler at Hillside has subsequently been replaced with a portable water cooler out of an abundance of caution. All other drinking fountains and bubblers at the seven other schools remain within acceptable water quality standards. An additional set of testing conducted at Hillside on August 11th for a couple of bubblers that had earlier registered at slightly above .15 ppb indicate that no actionable level of lead was again detected. For more information about the water testing and protocols: Water Quality Testing
• On August 17th, we held our annual staff orientation program for over 66 new staff, including teachers, support staff, and administrators. Welcome aboard to new Needham High School Principal Aaron Sicotte and Mitchell School Principal Greg Bayse.
During June, July, and August teacher professional development, curriculum planning, and technology training engaged many teachers and administrators. At all levels, more than sixty teachers spent time increasing their knowledge and comfort with technology to enhance teaching in the digital classroom. Staff training around Cultural Proficiency, Responsive Classroom, and new online courses designed to assist teachers to modify and adapt practice for ELL and special education students were also well attended. Dozens of staff members representing all the schools also participated in safety training using the new ALICE protocol.
Elementary STEAM teachers worked with staff at the Museum of Science to further enhance their understanding of how to integrate the various areas of STEAM into a meaningful learning experience for their students. Pre-school teachers now have a well articulated, developmentally appropriate curriculum for their students that is aligned to the new standards for Social-Emotional Development and Approaches to Play and Learning.
This past week teacher representatives, School Committee members, and principals and administrators met at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Dorchester to discuss ideas about empowering educators' voices in the development of a shared vision for learning in our schools. The conversation will be the first of several this school year designed to strengthen relationships and set priorities for leading and learning.
• We are gearing up for a successful school opening on Wednesday, August 31st. Bus routes have been planned, classroom supplies unpacked, and teachers are quite busy setting up classrooms in order to welcome over 5,600 students to Needham's classrooms. Our enrollment continues to grow slightly, this year by an anticipated 25 new students. In fact, in the last ten years, Needham's enrollment has increased by more than 585 students placing Needham within the top ten percent of all school districts by number of students enrolled. Thanks to the community for its continued support of additional teachers and staff to keep pace with additional students and their growing learning needs.
Buildings cleaned, staff trained, and classrooms prepped! In the spirit of the Rio Olympic swim and track officials: Ready... Set...