Hampshire Regional School District: A renovated school in Williamsburg, new principal in Southampton

Last modified: Monday, September 08, 2014
A renovated and expanded school in Williamsburg and a new principal at the elementary school in Southampton are among the changes for the new school year in the Hampshire Regional School District.

The district includes Hampshire Regional High School, Westhampton Elementary School, William E. Norris School in Southampton, Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg, and New Hingham Regional Elementary School in Chesterfield, which also serves students from Goshen.


Teachers and staff are excited to be moving into the improved Anne T. Dunphy School, which has been under construction for over a year. “There are a lot of last-minute things to be done, but we’re definitely on track to open in September,” said Principal Stacey Jenkins.

The town decided to renovate the Dunphy School and add 16,000 square feet so it can house all students from kindergarten through Grade six. Previously, students in kindergarten through Grade 3 were educated at the Helen E. James School.

There will be an open house at the school Sept. 6.

Also new at the school are courses in Spanish and instrumental music.

“We’re envisioning offering Spanish for K-6. We may start instrumental music with the upper grades first,” Jenkins said.

Norris School

There are several significant changes at the Norris School, including a new bus pass policy and a new principal who started her job July 1.

Aliza Pluta, of Holyoke, said she is planning to develop a leadership team of faculty and staff, something she had when she was principal of Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke.

“It will make major decisions for the school, so it’s not just the principal,” she said.

Pluta said she also has been “fine tuning” the scheduling for special education groups and increasing intervention efforts to help students before they need special education. “That’s where our MCAS scores fall short, is the special education subgroup,” she said.

The school added a preschool classroom, but there will be one fewer classroom in the third and fourth grades due to budget cuts. After Southampton’s $1 million override vote failed July 1, three teachers were laid off. There will be less money for materials and maintenance, one full-time custodian will be cut to part time, and the teachers of physical education, art, music and library will be cut to 80 percent of their former hours.

There was also a deficit of almost $50,000 in the school’s transportation budget, so the school instituted a bus pass policy to determine whether routes could be combined. Regional school districts are required to provide transportation for students who live two miles or more from the school.

District Business Administrator Cindy Landers said the school was able to cut one bus for a savings of about $24,000.

The school will now charge $225 for each student who lives within two miles, with a maximum charge of $450 per family, Landers said. Choice students from out of district who get to Southampton bus stops will also have to pay the fee which is due Sept. 1, although Landers said there will be a grace period.

Hampshire Regional

At the combination middle and high school, interim Principal Kristen Smidy said the new school year means the return of home room. It was more difficult to keep track of tardiness and absences last year after the school implemented a “waterfall” class schedule, she said. The schedule meant that students had a different class for first period every day.

School will start at 7:35 a.m., as opposed to 7:42 a.m., to make time for home room, she said.

The school has also added Advanced Placement courses in Spanish and French and is welcoming three exchange students from Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico who are staying with families in the district, Smidy said.

Administrators are also thrilled that the school was named 69th in the top 100 high schools in the state by GoLocal Worcester. That puts it in the top 20 percent of schools. “It’s kind of a big deal,” Smidy said.

Westhampton Elementary

Westhampton Elementary School Principal Deane Bates said that long-time special education teacher Andria Wolf retired and will be replaced by Lindsey Meisner.

Work is also winding down on the school’s new roof, Superintendent Craig Jurgensen said. The $1.1 million project also includes adding new doors to the entryway, which will be installed in mid-September to early October.

New Hingham Elementary

New Hingham Elementary School Principal Rosemary Larkin is in the process of hiring replacements to fill two positions. Jurgensen said former music teacher Sasha Ayvazian and former cafeteria director Sarah Icklan both left their jobs to go back to school.

The district’s elementary schools are all implementing a new K-6 math curriculum called enVisionsMATH 2015. Curriculum Director Gail Lucey said the new program will be aligned with common core and Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks requirements and will replace two curricula that were in place for grades K-2 and 3-6.

“We were looking for continuity,” she said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.