2014-09-05 / Front Page

Changes come as students go back to school

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

Next week: Consolidated School and Mildred L. Day School

Tuesday was the first day of school for most students in Regional School Unit 21. As they transition from summer vacation, they will notice some changes from last year.

At Kennebunk Elementary School, as students enter the lunchroom they will notice a piano and salad bar.

“There was a grassroots movement last year where students and duty staff were spending the last 10 minutes of their lunch time dancing in the lunch room, and we are expecting that might continue this year, and we want to encourage family members to join us for lunch whenever they can,” said Principal Ryan Quinn. The intent of the salad bar is to provide many accessible healthy options for students and visitors.

In the classroom, as a continuation of a grant KES was given three years ago, teachers will continue working with Dr. Ross Greene in the communication program known as Collaborative Proactive Solutions.

“This communication training helps staff build lagging social skills in students who are struggling to make good choices,” Quinn said. “We have had great results and this approach will merge with and effectively support movement toward Restorative Justice with older students.”

The staff at KES will also continue to work with math expert and consultant, Dr. Mahesh Sharma. Sharma is a former mathematics professor and president at Cambridge College. Sharma has worked extensively with staff at KES in addition to offering a course at the Colony Hotel this summer for teachers in RSU 21.

KES will continue televising its Friday morning assemblies, but this year it will be with the help of other schools in the district. Students from KHS and MSK will aid in organizing, directing and guest hosting the weekly airings, Quinn said. The KES chorus opens the assembly, followed by English and Spanish classroom showcases. The assemblies “serve to recognize student achievement of every kind, from performance to athletics, to our exceptional assessment scores,” Quinn said.

The month of November marks the 10th anniversary for KES. To celebrate the anniversary, the school will host Michael Wingfield as an artist in residence. Wingfield will teach African drumming to all students.

At Middle School of the Kennebunks, enrollment numbers are up this year, at 525 students.

This year, sixth- through eighth-grade students will be taught a reconfigured curriculum that better aligns with the Common Core standard for mathematics. “They’re no longer doing Everyday Math, they’re doing Glencoe math,” said Principal Jeff Rodman. The intent is to provide students with greater content continuity as they move in to high school. “After careful review, we thought this program would be best for our students,” Rodman said.

The education technician program at MSK is also being reconfigured this year. Each student is required to take an allied art class (music, physical education, art, health, etc.) Allied art classes are taught by education technicians.

The way they teach their respective classes, Rodman said, will have more of a STEM focus.

Rodman and Assistant Principal Jean Beaulieu unveiled a challenge to teachers and students on the first day of school Tuesday. “We’ve thrown out a challenge to our students and staff—a 10,000 book reading challenge,” Rodman said. The challenge is for students and teachers to collectively read 10,000 books before the end of the school year. That totals about 18 books a year, or two books per month.

The challenge also includes a writing component, Rodman said. “Students have to write about what the book was and why or why not they would recommend it. The challenge is to get them to read more as well as to write.”

The structure of MSK includes two teams for each grade. Up until this year, the team names were named after teachers. New this year, administration has chosen to name each team after a natural landmark in Maine.

“We’re an International Baccalaureate school and we want to remember our roots and the great places of Maine,” Rodman said.

The sixth-grade teams will thus be named Cadillac and Katahdin; the seventh-grade teams will be named Allagash and Sebago; and the eighth-grade teams will be named Acadia and Baxter. Each team will explore, in depth, their Maine name so as to better learn about the state they live in, Rodman said. “We want to make sure we know our heritage.”

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