By Ann Needle
Last night’s Nashoba School Committee meeting focused on how the district is working to help students lead physically and emotionally healthier lives. But, it was the ongoing argument on combining half- and full-day kindergarten classes that generated the most heat.
In a 4-3 vote, the Committee agreed to postpone a vote on adding 30 minutes of class time for half-day kindergarteners. With the district gradually changing over totally to all-day kindergarten classes in the next three years, Superintendent Michael Wood has said this should help assure that half-day students receive the same core instruction as their full-day counterparts. However, some half-day parents have voiced concern that their children will be pushed through too long of a day.
Before the vote to postpone, Nashoba Early Childhood Coordinator Cynthia Maxfield explained that she and some teachers visited with several schools with similar half/full-day, combined classrooms as what Nashoba plans for the fall. “We were surprised there were as many of these hybrids as there were. And they seemed to think it’s a no-brainer,” Maxfield said of these classrooms’ teachers. Most sessions were “three hours plus, and all the teachers were really excited about that extra time.”
However, Stow Rep. Nicole Odekirk was one of the Committee members pushing to give next year’s kindergarten parents more of a chance to respond to the idea before the Committee vote on extending the schedule by 30 minutes. “We are in a transition year for kindergarten, and we asked parents to be part of this transition,” Oderkirk asserted. “Talking to neighbors, they didn’t think this kindergarten change was going to happen this year when they signed up. With the potential half-day time change, these parents are distressed that they have been left out of another decision,” she added.
“We don’t usually ask parents to vote on something like this,” maintained Committee Co-Chair Nancy Federspiel of Bolton. “At some point, we have to rely on our teachers and our administrators to make a decision.”
Voting against postponing the vote were Maureen Busch of Stow, Federspiel, and Cathy Thiel (Lancaster). Stow’s Lynn Colletti and Odekirk, along with Lorraine Romasco (Bolton) and Julie Fay (Lancaster), voted in favor.
Wood said the vote on extending the half day will be taken at the Committee’s June 17 meeting.
Nashoba’s Health and Wellness Year
Nashoba Health, Guidance & Wellness Coordinator Pat Trahman offered highlights of some of Nahoba’s health and wellness efforts this past year. These included proposing the inclusion of “staff” in the definition of a potential bully in the district’s Positive Climate/Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan to be in line with recent changes to anti-bullying laws; studying ways to make the school more environmentally friendly; applying for a USDA “farm-to-table” grant, to potentially bring more local produce to Nashoba cafeterias, and perhaps offer educational programs; and updating the district’s Concussion Protocol, which outlines general steps for getting a concussed student back to class.
With the increase of concussions nationally, Trahman reported Nashoba Regional High School saw 50 concussions among students this school year, while Hale Middle School experienced 18.
The Committee also reviewed results presented from 2012 from the district-wide students Emerson Hospital Youth Risk Survey. Administered every two years, the survey confidentially asked all of NRHS’s students, plus all district sixth and eighth graders, about the type of drug use and other risky behaviors they have experienced or encountered.
Michael Wood identified some of the chief areas of concern, including illegal drug and alcohol use. For instance, 56 percent of NRHS seniors at the time reported they had smoked marijuana. The full results can be found at: www.nrsd.net/assets/files/SC%2014-15%20/DrugandAlcoholData.Nashoba.pdf Students in the same Nashoba grades also took the latest Youth Risk Survey this school year, and results should be ready in the fall.
“I really would like to know what we’re doing about this,” remarked Julie Fay. “You can do all the surveys you want, but if you don’t act on them, it’s no good.”
Wood said the Substance Abuse Task Force should be giving a presentation at the June 17 Committee meeting.
Center School Happy, Mostly
An annual online survey of Center’s families revealed that most are quite happy with a wide variety of aspects of the school, from teaching quality to administrative leadership. For a complete look at the survey results, go to www.nrsd.net/assets/files/SC%2014-15%20/Center2014Survey.redac.pdf.
After this year’ trial in the district with the national PARCC (Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers) test, the Committee voted unanimously not to participate in next year’s trial for the tests. At the May 20 School Committee meeting, Wood explained Nashoba had until the end of this school year to decide whether to continue with the PARCC trial, or to stay exclusively with MCAS. Wood maintained that the district would not benefit from continuing the trial, given it would place another task on already-overburdened teachers. (Students still must take MCAS.) The state is aiming to put either PARCC or another assessment in place for the 2015/16 year, he said.
Finally, Stow’s Nick Giovinazzo, an active member of the high school’s Best Buddies program, was chosen MVP after last week’s Best Buddies flag football game at Harvard Stadium. Best Buddies aims to bring together students with special needs and regular education students for sports, socializing, and other activities.