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Back to School: Gateway Regional

Introducing: free lunch at Chester Elementary and 2 new administrators

  • The Gateway Regional High School commencement ceremony last spring, with the Huntington school in the background. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • The Gateway Regional High School mascot dances during commencement last spring. Gazette file photo



For the Gazette
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

HUNTINGTON — One of Gateway Regional School District’s biggest changes for the upcoming school year will be at Chester Elementary School, where there will be such a thing as a free lunch — and breakfast, too.

The school, which offers pre-kindergarten through fifth grade for the towns of Blandford, Chester and Middlefield, will be a universal breakfast and lunch school starting this year, said Wendy Long, the district’s community relations official.

The school has seen sustained poverty over the last several years, Long said, and many students were on free and reduced lunch programs already. Now, every student will get free breakfast and lunch each school day.

“We’re looking forward to making that switch,” Superintendent David Hopson said. “Once we got the recommendation to move forward to allow free meals for everyone, we decided that would make it a lot easier for both staff and students.”

Gateway will also hire new assistant principals for the middle and high schools, Hopson said.

“I think we’ll have a fairly interesting year, and I’m looking forward to the new perspectives we’ll get from the people in these positions,” Hopson said. “I think things are looking up for the district.”

Some of Gateway’s newer programs will continue or expand this year. Last year, students in grades three through nine had school-issued Chromebooks; this year, the one-to-one Chromebook policy will apply to grades three through 10. Though they won’t have their own Chromebooks, high school juniors and seniors will have access to laptops, Long said.

Cellphones are now banned in class for middle and high school students, Long said, unless specifically allowed for educational purposes.

Additionally, the district will continue to use a successful pilot program called “blizzard bags,” which are assignments given in advance to allow snow days to be counted as school days. Of the eight snow days Gateway had last year, five were counted as school days thanks to blizzard bag assignments, Hopson said.

Blizzard bags will continue to apply for up to five snow days this year, Long said. This allows the district to prevent students from attending some makeup days in June after the scheduled end of the school year.

“Kids weren’t too sure whether they liked the blizzard bags during the winter when they had to do work on their snow days,” Hopson said. “But they all loved it when summer came around and they were out of class way earlier than their friends in other districts. I have a feeling it’ll be the same this year.”