September 3, 2008

Classrooms Shifted to Accommodate All-Day Kindergarten

By Richard C Dujardin

NORTH PROVIDENCE -- Classes in the public schools begin Tuesday in kindergarten through grade nine while the upper grades start Wednesday.

Supt. Donna Ottaviano said it is always difficult to say what the new enrollment will be until after the first couple of weeks.

"We always have families who seem to assume that school doesn't begin until after Labor Day," she said. "So we always get an influx of students in the second week."

Last year's enrollment was more than 3,200 students -- with roughly 1,200 of those at the high school, 800 students at the two middle schools, and 1,200 students in elementary grades.

To help facilitate the transition for the new class of high school freshmen, the district will have a mandatory orientation session for them and their parents, Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the high school. Parents will be able to get acquainted with the teachers, and students will be introduced to the school rules.

One big change at the six elementary schools this year is the introduction of full-day kindergarten, replacing the half-day sessions that have been in place for years.

The change was approved by the School Committee in June, which meant that officials had to scramble to make classroom arrangements. "We've had to order desks, books and supplies from nine different companies, and some of the supplies are still on back order," said Ottaviano.

To make accommodations for the new classrooms, officials also had to make adjustments in some buildings.

To make room at the Centredale Elementary School, Ottaviano shifted a pre-school program to the Greystone Elementary School, took down a wall that had separated the pre-school program from a reading teacher and used the enlarged space to create another kindergarten. The reading teacher was moved to another room.

At Greystone, officials found the extra kindergarten space by using a room that had previously been dedicated to art and music, which will once again be taught in the regular classrooms. In another shift, one fourth-grade class was eliminated at Greystone to make room for another first grade class to accommodate an anticipated higher enrollment. The superintendent had planned to eliminate a fifth-grade class to save money, but that move was blocked by the School Committee after teachers petitioned to save the class.

At the James L. McGuire Elementary School, officials moved one of the fourth-grade classes to a room on the second floor to ensure that the school's two kindergarten classrooms will be on the first floor.

At the Marieville Elementary School, workers created new kindergarten space out of two smaller rooms that had previously been used by a school psychologist and a social worker, next to the other kindergarten classroom.

At the Joseph A. Whelan Elementary School, space was created by converting an art and music room into a kindergarten room and sending the art and music programs back into the regular classrooms.

The Stephen Olney Elementary School presented the least difficulty, Ottaviano said, because the school already had extra classroom space.

Also new this year is an experimental plan to equip two school buses with video surveillance cameras to identify motorists who illegally attempt to pass school buses that have stopped to take on or discharge passengers. [email protected] / (401) 277-7384

Originally published by Richard C Dujardin, Journal Staff Writer.

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