As students venture into the newly chilly morning air with fresh notebooks and full-bellied backpacks for the start of classes this week, they’re meeting with a host of changes and upgrades to Concord’s public schools.
The district welcomed approximately 35 new staff and faculty members in August, according to Superintendent Laurie Hunter. The “energetic,” and “experienced” new hires, she said, took a guided tour of Concord and Carlisle to learn about the towns’ history as part of their orientation.
The teachers weren’t the only fresh faces at school: Ten students living at the emergency shelter at Concord’s Best Western entered kindergarten this week as well.
“We’re excited by that opportunity,” Hunter said. “As of this minute, we’ll have 14 kids [from the shelter] going to their school of origin and 19 enrolled in K-12 — most of them at Willard [Elementary School] — so we’re excited by the continued partnerships there and [the] support to those families.”
Hunter said several capital projects took place over the summer “that are going to be really obvious” to returning students. The enormous construction site beside Sanborn, where the new middle school is beginning to take shape, will stand out.
“The kids left and it was a field, and now it’s a very active construction site,” Hunter said. She added that the project should not affect students while they’re in school, but kids and parents should exercise “care and caution” when passing by. Several new crossing guards will supervise the area.
At the high school, the looping road that connects the Thoreau and Walden Street entrances was repaved and sidewalks and light fixtures were replaced to remedy years of “disintegration,” Hunter said.
Wi-Fi service outside the building was expanded to improve cellular calling capabilities and five new blue light stations are currently being installed across the campus for emergency calls. Inside the building, part of a computer lab was repurposed for special education programming, and the guidance office was reconfigured to make the space feel more open and welcoming to students, the superintendent said.
Concord Integrated Preschool was also reconfigured to make space for a new fifth classroom, Hunter said; several rugs were updated in the process.
At the elementary schools, teachers will roll out the district’s social-emotional learning programs — Responsive Classroom and Fly Five — “more substantially” this year, thanks to support from the Concord Educational Fund.
“They’re about kids building relationships and connections and skills,” Hunter said. “We’re really excited about what that program offers.”
While schools opened August 30, students’ return to the classroom was to be quickly followed by a four-day holiday weekend. Hunter called the timing of this break “positive for everyone.”
“We get our structures in place and get the kids introduced to the new year,” she said. “Then we get this exhale, and then we really hit the ground running Tuesday when everybody comes back.”
Back to School Night meetings will take place throughout September, so Hunter recommended that parents keep an eye out for correspondence from principals for more information.