Stall Brook School Spotlighted During School Comm. Meeting
Feb 28, 2017 07:00AM
By Lynn Ulsh
At the Jan. 26 School Committee meeting held at Stall Brook School, BHS Principal Lucas Giguere (right) presented Jason Robidoux, pictured with his parents, Joe and Susan Robidoux, with the Leadership Award from Dean Bank for his work with the Best Buddies Program, pairing students to work with special-needs students.
At a special remote meeting of the School Committee at Stall Brook Elementary School on January 26, Principal Carolyn Rafferty presented new programs occurring at the school.
First, teachers Stephanie Rothschild and Kara Winslow showcased the third-grade leadership program emphasizing health and wellness issues.
Rafferty then outlined the Focus K-2 Initiative, which incorporates play centers into themed learning. These centers accentuate what the students are learning in their lessons and create situations for students to work collaboratively. She showed an example of a first-grade class having learned a science lesson on animals in the winter and separating into groups with some children building lairs for animals to hibernate, some students looking through magnifying glasses at items from the animals’ natural habitat and teachers working with small groups of students at a time for additional instruction.
Rafferty described the teachers’ enthusiasm for the new initiative and how they come back from their Professional Development days with added vigor and creative ideas.
ABA Program Director Rachel Freedman gave the School Committee an overview of the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program and the Bellingham Early Childhood Program, both of which are housed at Stall Brook. The ABA program provides for the education of students with significant special needs such as autism and Down Syndrome.
Freedman showed the students both in inclusion in regular education classrooms as well as the sub-separate special education classes. She spotlighted the services the students receive in the areas of speech, occupational and physical therapies and life skills such as cooking.
Special Education Director Rachel Lawrence asked the School Committee to consider accepting students from other school districts on a case-by-case basis. She noted that this would not mean an influx of students from other districts; however, she has been contacted by another district that does not have a comparable program. The tuition charged would cover all costs of staffing as well as therapies and consultation. Before voting on accepting an out-of-district student, the School Committee asked for more information on determining the exact costs for educating a student in the Special Needs program.
Bellingham Memorial School Principal Jeffrey Croteau addressed the School Committee about changing the sixth-grade Nature’s Classroom trip. Currently, the sixth grade is offered a 4-day, 3-night trip in mid-October to the Nature’s Classroom camp in Charlton, MA, where students attend educational programs featuring team building and hands-on-learning.
However, Croteau described problems with this site, such as increasing costs and embedded liability issues associated with the trip. This past fall, Nature’s Classroom had a problem with bedbugs that he felt was not properly addressed or communicated. As a result, students were bused to the site in the morning and returned to Bellingham each night.
Croteau also described liability issues that can arise from the distribution of medicine and the vetting of chaperones. He said that the trip also takes many students away from classroom learning for four days while an increasing number of students are remaining behind because of the rising costs of the program.
As an alternative, Croteau suggested day trips to the YMCA for team-building programs that use the ropes course or a day or single- night program at a different site, such as Alton Jones in Rhode Island. However, he doesn’t feel that it is the school system’s responsibility to provide overnight experiences for students.
School Committee member Mark Flannery argued that the program brings science to life and garners enthusiasm more than a classroom lesson and helps children gain a knowledge of and appreciation for science.
The School Committee agreed to revisit the topic at the next meeting and gain more information on other camps and programs.