The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of July 22 to July 29, 2021

Winchendon Public Schools Working with Students Who Fell Behind During the Pandemic.

The challenges and hurdles caused by a lack of in-person learning during the pandemic, which have at times seemed nearly insurmountable for students, teachers, and faculty, are being skillfully addressed through extended summer learning. Interim Superintendent of Schools Thad King will tell you he is excited about the upcoming academic year.

While it's no secret teachers faced a multitude of challenges--ranging from identifying students who were falling behind and or struggling to learn on a screen, to keeping the attention of students over the distractions of home--the need for available extended summer learning has never been more vital. It helps to provide educational equity, aiding students who otherwise would have continued to fall behind.

Currently, according to King and the Winchendon Public Schools' Central Office, the extended summer learning program includes 25 students at Memorial Elementary, 12 students at Toy Town Elementary, 55 Murdock Middle School students, and 65 Murdock High School students. King said, "This year's summer school is really interesting, at least in my opinion. There are two things going on. We know the students need remediation to get caught up. At the same time, with everything you hear about the social and emotional aspects, they are burnt out. These programs are a mix between between traditional summer school and remediation to keep kids on track. Additionally, Special Education Extended School year grades PreK-12 also equals 51 students."

King was quick to give teachers credit for their creativity. "Our teachers worked very hard and were quite inventive when it came to classroom spacing, moving furniture--not just chairs and desks--and more to do whatever they had to, allowing as many students as possible to fit into each and every classroom in accordance with social distance mandates and guidelines. Teachers were very creative, to their credit, doing whatever they could so they could fit every last student possible, doing the best they could for students once we were allowed to get them back in the classroom."

Elaborating on learning locations, King explained, "We partnered Memorial School with the Clark YMCA who applied for a literacy grant. We supplied teachers and the classrooms. There are several classrooms with small groups, so we can really focus on students' needs. Memorial classes are being run at Memorial, and TTE is actually at the Clark YMCA. We run a bus, so students at Memorial can participate also at the Clark if their parents also wanted the children to participate at the camp in the afternoon."

King went on to say, "The Memorial School piece was on a grant, and TTE we as a district funded on our own with two teachers and two classrooms working out of the Clark with space they provided for us. For both schools, if parents wanted their children to be involved in the Camp Clark summer camp, this partnership allows them to do both."

Regarding MCAS (the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for public schools) testing, King clarified, for any parents or guardians of students who may be confused on the standardized testing issue, that there were no MCAS tests given in 2020 during the initial early pandemic shutdown. During 2021, MCAS were mandated. However, no school districts were held accountable for any test results. When King was asked for any thoughts regarding MCAS testing for the 2021-2022 academic year, he stated that while nothing was set in stone as of this time, he predicts there is a very strong chance the testing will be mandated, with the accountability component back in operation.

Looking forward to the beginning of the upcoming school year after the summer recess, King said, "I am excited about it! We want the children to feel welcome when they come back. We want the students to regain the feeling of normalcy. So we looked at what was left at the end of the year in our budget, and focused on what could we do to create a nice welcoming environment.

"Beginning with Memorial Elementary, the playground and blacktop area are being worked on by contractors. At the high school, overgrown brush and more is being cleared out at the ball field, while interior walls received repairs and painting updates. At TTE, grass in playground areas which often times was either dilapidated or completely missing is being replaced. Our goal is to spruce up all the schools in our district, and make sure we provided an atmosphere which is inviting so when the students return they will be happy just to get back in to it."

King credited outgoing Superintendent Joan Landers on the district budgeting. "Joan has been absolutely awesome and a very hard worker. She has been extremely helpful. She deserves a break that has been a long time coming, and I hope she has a very happy retirement. Also helpful with learning the budget process has been Finance Committee Chair Thomas Kane who is a former Superintendent of Schools. He has also been very happy to help." Kane served in that capacity for the West Boylston School District for nine years.

Speaking about the upcoming academic year, King said, "The more we raise the bar on student expectations, the more they will rise. I so far have never been anywhere, where if you raise the students' expectations, they won't go with you. We are going to push those expectations with the students forward, but always know it comes back to the students' relationships with their teachers to always know where that line is."

In closing King said, "We are quite simply really looking forward in getting back to normal and bringing our kids back to school, assessing where are students are, and bringing each student what they need. For expectations, my fundamental belief is high expectations inspire high achievement."

Local Students Receive Bachelor's Degrees from UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Approximately 5,500 students received bachelor's degrees in over 100 majors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Undergraduate Commencement on May 14, 2021 at the McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

The following Winchendon students earned a degree:

Aidan Hauver
Aidan Quinn Provost
Miranda L Raimon

The Courier congratulates our students on their accomplishments.