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Back to School: Hadley

Schools sharpen focus on science, technology

  • Class of 2017 Hopkins Academy graduates wait for the start of commencement this past June. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

HADLEY — Sparking students’ imagination, challenging their thinking and enlarging their hearts in an environment that is fun to be in and offers cutting-edge learning tools remains the objective for education in Hadley’s public schools, says Superintendent Anne McKenzie.

While the schools will continue to have a consistency in the approach to how students are taught, McKenzie said this will be enhanced in the 2017-18 school year with a “makerspace” in what has long been a computer lab at Hadley Elementary School.

Primary students will get an opportunity to use this room for the educational focus known as STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

“A great deal of equipment, including new computers, will be put into that space,” McKenzie said.

Other elements in the room will include a green screen with lighting and tripod, robotics and circuitry equipment, editing software and Lego tiles.

At Hopkins Academy, students will continue to have access to three-dimensional printers and new computers. There will also be a new course focused on financial literacy.

McKenzie said the schools are expanding what is known as tiered instruction for the 573 students who will be taught at Hopkins and the elementary school.

“It’s ensuring every single student is getting a more personalized approach to learning,” McKenzie said.

Hadley schools, she said, are a participant in a project led by the University of Minnesota to improve assessments and increase understanding of students’ strengths and weaknesses.

“That will help teachers plan instruction to make sure individual students’ needs are being met,” McKenzie said.

Social justice push

The mental health and well-being of students will remain a focus, as efforts to expand positive behaviors in practice come through a partnership with the University of Massachusetts. Four elementary teachers attended training in “Responsive Classroom,” a program that links social and emotional learning to academic success.

McKenzie said over the past year the district has put a lot of effort into mental health first aid, such as developing suicide prevention guidelines. James Levine & Associates, psychotherapists based in South Hadley, will assist with this ongoing work.

There is also a strong commitment to social justice districtwide, she said.

McKenzie points to the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton and its work with staff at Hopkins on equity and social justice issues, and to the increased visibility of the student-led diversity club over the last year.

“Students took the role of identifying inequities,” McKenzie said.

In fact, some of these students came before the School Committee to recommend changes to the dress code policy and that language be adjusted to accommodate all students. A social norms campaign will also get underway during the fall semester to raise awareness of gender equality issues.

Few changes are being made to the buildings and grounds of the schools, though air conditioning units are being installed at Hadley Elementary School that will improve the learning environment during the warm fall and spring days. In addition, the School Committee is submitting a request to use Community Preservation Act money to renovate athletic fields behind Hopkins.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.