Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Melrose Kindergarten Information Night

Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Patti White-Lambright facilitated last night’s presentation on Kindergarten in the Melrose Public Schools. She introduced the principals of the five elementary schools and invited each to describe their school and speak to its unique characteristics. Hoover principal Jenny Corduck reviewed highlights of the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, speaking to the daily 90-minute literacy block including the fact that students should be up and moving, have fun, and play in order to “captivate them” into learning. Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Margaret Adams spoke to the 75-80 minute daily math block and that fact that mathematics builds on previous learning, that educators need to ensure that students retain mathematical content and skills, and that students should actively engage in the language of math. Explaining employment of the D.I.C.E. concept (more info here: http://tinyurl.com/mgx32k7) she spoke to the importance of students understanding that they can tackle any problem and that in the process, they can show what they are thinking. Dr. Adams also talked about the social studies curriculum (including community and holidays as themes), and the science curriculum (where students learn to observe, make predictions, and draw conclusions using the themes of animals and wood/paper/the properties of matter). Students will do one research project in each of these two subject areas over the course of the year. The Powerpoint presentation will be posted on-line soon and all registration information is online now at melroseschools.com.

Parents asked excellent questions:

·      * Does the order in which your registration is submitted impact receiving your choice of school (i.e. first submitted/better chance of first choice)? No, all on-time submissions are considered equally.
·      * How do art, music, PE, and recess work? There is one 40-minute block per week for art, music, and PE. There is a 15-minute structured movement block each morning, and a 20-minute (hopefully!) outdoor recess after lunch.
·      * What does Kindergarten screening entail? Screenings take about 30 minutes and include movement (hop, skip, balance), as well as conceptual-type screenings (e.g. stacking items, identifying shapes, etc.).
·      * What is homework like? Parents should read with their child every single night. There may be a math sheet added to that regimen later in the year. There might also be on-line opportunities for math practice.
·      * Can students from one school participate in an after-school club at another school? Generally not (for logistical reasons).
·     *  What kind of technology is available at the schools and is it equitable? There is variation between the schools (often depending on the limitations of the facility) except for the fact that every classroom has a Smartboard. There are Chromebooks in most schools, 2-3 computers per classroom, and a small number of computers in the libraries. Newer schools have computer labs too.
·      * Are there OT and PT services at all schools? Yes, as well as speech services, a part-time school psychologist for social/emotional support, and a full-time nurse.
·      * Do the schools differ in their nut/allergy policies? No, in all schools, classrooms are nut-free and there are designated nut-free areas in each cafeteria. In addition, no celebration goods are brought in for a class; each student brings in a “party-in-a-bag” type celebratory snack.
·     *  Is there foreign language instruction either during or before/after school? Most if not all schools offer Global Child language instruction (for a fee) after school although the languages may differ by school. There is no foreign language instruction during the school day.
·      * How much standardized testing is there? Students are formally assessed three times per year in a one-on-one setting for very brief periods of time. There may be quick assessments (< 1 minute) during the year to ensure that students are learning concepts as they go along.
·      * When will parents be notified regarding school placement? The majority of families will be notified on or around 4/17 by mail. If the district was unable to place a family in their first-choice school, they will be contacted by phone.
·      * Are there school buses in Melrose? No, general education students are not transported by bus.
·      * Are spaces generally available in the after-school program or are there waiting lists? In the past, there have been slots available for families who want them.
·     *  What is lunch like? Lunch is scheduled generally mid-day and lasts for 20 mins. Students can choose to bring a lunch or purchase a hot lunch (for which students notify teachers in the morning). Pizza day is once/week. Lunchrooms are staffed with an ample number of adults.
·      * What is security like in the buildings? After students are led into the buildings, the doors are locked and visitors must ring the doorbell and be buzzed in. Visitors must come into the office immediately, sign-in, and wear a visitor badge throughout their time in the building. All staff members are required to wear badges. When students are outside, adults supervise them. Teachers of younger students do a “hand-to-hand” dismissal so that the teacher and family member make eye contact to ensure a safe transition. All teachers are CORI checked and undergo a fingerprint background check. All volunteers undergo a CORI check.

Ms. MacPherson in the Parent Information Center is happy to answer families’ questions and can be reached at 781-662-2000 or amacpherson@melroseschools.com.