Back to School: Belchertown

New grading system awaits elementary schoolers

  • Belchertown High School, 142 Springfield Road. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

BELCHERTOWN — New programs, new employees and new meal options are just some of the changes that will greet Belchertown students as they begin another school year.

Gone are letter grades for students at Swift River Elementary School and Cold Spring School. In their place, the schools will use a standards-based report card, which is aimed at giving more information to parents about their children.

“It’s specifics … that when a parent sits down with a teacher they can look at it and say ‘my child needs help with this particular area’ instead of just saying ‘this child passed reading,’” Superintendent Carol Koffin said.

The three elementary schools will also switch to a trimester schedule in an effort to provide more accurate assessments of students’ abilities. Traditionally, Koffin said, the first quarter of the year is spent getting to know the students, understanding their needs and reviewing information from the previous year.

“By moving to trimester, the first standards-based report card will be more accurate,” Koffin said. “We’ve had an opportunity to know the children for a longer period of time.”

The middle school and high school will remain on quarters.

Permanent director

Previously serving as interim director of Cold Spring School, Andrea Masterlaz will now fill that position permanently. This year will be Masterlaz’s 29th year with the district. All but two of those years were at Cold Spring School.

“I just want all of my students to have a very productive, exciting and memorable year,” she said.

In her role as director, Masterlaz said she wants to provide a nurturing and welcoming environment for students, staff and families. “We are the foundation,” she said. “I want families to feel welcome, not only to the Belchertown school district but to Cold Spring School.”

Breakfast at school

A new breakfast program will begin Sept. 11 at Swift River Elementary School with the intention of spreading to the district’s other schools by the end of the school year.

“Children get dropped off by the bus or parents before school starts and there is time there where we could be providing a breakfast to them,” Koffin said. “We know several of our children come to school without breakfast. This gives an opportunity to help them get a better start to their morning by having a breakfast at school.”

All children at the school are eligible for the grab-and-go style breakfast. The cost is $1. For those students and families on free and reduced lunch, the cost is 40 cents.

“Over time, the program will grow so it won’t always be grab and go,” Koffin said. “But to begin it we need to start slow and work our way up.”

Other changes

The sixth-graders at Chestnut Hill Community School will take part in project-based learning.

At the high school, a group of students spent part of their summer training for a new program called “Online for Good.”

“It is exactly what is says — online for good,” Koffin said. The goal of the program is to spread good cheer and have people look at the positives.

The district has also hired a new buildings and grounds manager. A Belchertown graduate, Eric LaBeau, will fill the position.

In addition to debuting a new website, the district has also rolled out a new motto: “Tradition and innovation together.”

Koffin said the district wanted to find something that captured both where Belchertown is and where it is going.

“Belchertown is a very traditional community,” Koffin said. “We also see it as a place where innovation could thrive and we need to provide our children and our students with a mindset toward innovating.

“We put tradition and innovation together and we have Belchertown.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.