Shutesbury, Leverett elementary schools to welcome new staff, curriculum

  • Shutesbury Elementary School

  • Nikos Kratimenos (center), a first-grader from Shutesbury Elementary School, releases a rainbow trout into the Quabbin Reservoir as Val Wisniewski, a teacher at Shutesbury, looks on. 04/13/2017

  • Left, Violetta Salacuse, Eli Skinder, Tallulah Peterson, and Graylin Bovaird, kindergarteners at Leverett Elementary School,get ready to place pinwheels they made as part of a Peace Day Celebration Monday morning.

For the Gazette
Published: 8/22/2018 9:51:53 PM

The Shutesbury and Leverett elementary schools, which are both in the Union 28 School District, are preparing for the upcoming school year by hiring new staff, renovating buildings and developing academic and recreational programs for students.

Shutesbury Elementary Principal Jacqueline Mendonsa said the school is undergoing a number of construction projects, including installing a new $75,000 playground with funds approved by the town last spring.

New floors were also installed in the music room and in the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. Mendonsa said the floors were a “big improvement over the 20-plus-year-old carpets” that were in classrooms before. The project is the second phase of new flooring, which began when four classrooms were refloored last summer. Mendonsa said the new floors give the rooms a “fresh, clean and inviting” look.

Shutesbury Elementary, will also have some changes in staff this upcoming year. Mendonsa said that there is a new fifth-grade teacher, Laura Ginsberg-Peltz, who she described as enthusiastic and excited, and a new second-grade teacher, Katie Hertel, who brings “kindness, patience and experience to her position,” Mendonsa said. The school’s former second-grade teacher became the school’s reading specialist.

“We have one classroom per grade at Shutesbury Elementary so new teachers are a big deal,” Mendonsa said.

Mendonsa said that the school will continue the “Moose on the Move” running and walking club and will also offer yoga classes for every grade.

Leverett Elementary

Across the district, at Leverett Elementary, staff is also preparing for the start of the new school year.

According to Leverett Elementary Principal Margot Lacey, there are no construction projects going on at the school, but there are staff and curriculum changes.

Lacey said that four new staff members were added over the summer, although none were classroom teachers. The new hires include a new physical education teacher, an after-school director, a speech development professional and a technology coordinator.

Lacey said a big change in the school will be an increased emphasis on “inquiry-based science,” which she describes as “getting children to think deeply” and “stir up wonder” through hands-on learning.

Lacey said this will require additional training for teachers and staff, who the principal said are “very strong” and “work collaboratively.”

The school is also focusing social justice and social diversity and working with the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center to try and prevent cyberbullying, according to Lacey.

Both Lacey and Mendonsa said they are excited for the upcoming school year, and were happy to be working in a supportive district with engaged communities.

“We are lucky that our town and community strongly support the school, so we can continue to provide such a special place for growth,” Lacey said.

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