Bye bye summer: School starts next week in Milford

Milford students head back to school next week, on Thursday, Aug. 27, for a full day of school, and teachers will be back starting Monday. After a busy summer of moving elementary school classrooms and teachers to conform to a new elementary school configuration, school officials said the schools will be ready for the new school year to begin.

“All of the critical work is done,” School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser said this week. “We will be ready to open. The classrooms will be set up and in place, and there will be teachers in the classrooms.”

The summer was intense, as the district worked to convert its elementary configuration and continue its curriculum and professional development preparations, school spokesman Kathy Bonetti explained. Previously, four schools housed grades K-2 and four schools housed grades 3-5. In the new configuration, each of the city’s eight elementary schools will now house grades K-5.

There also was a centralized preschool program with all of the city’s nearly 200 preschool students housed at Orange Avenue Elementary along with grades K-2.

“As part of the Long Range Plan, the Board of Education requested that the preschool program be offered at several locations across the community – and as a result, preschool classes will now be held in four school buildings,” Bonetti said.

There will be a ready-to-learn classroom, too, which is grant-funded and similar to a pre-K, in another elementary school.

“Because of the obvious movement that was connected to the reconfiguration and decentralized preschool, teachers were packing their materials and labeling their classroom furniture just prior to the end of the school year in June,” Bonetti said.

More than 9,000 moving boxes were required to conduct the district-wide move.

There may be some minor glitches come next Thursday, Feser said. Some classrooms may be missing shelves or still be waiting for some instructional material, but “all of the core pieces will absolutely be in place,” she said.

Technology was a big part of the move: Some 1,200 pieces of technology had to be moved from one building or classroom to another, from desktops to SMARTBoards to Chromebooks.

Each grade 3-5 classroom will have nine Chromebooks this year, which allow students to work together on projects, share documents and do online research. The classrooms had some Chromebooks before, but nine is an “exciting” number because in most cases that means almost half the students will be able to use them at one time, Feser said.

In addition to some major moving, summertime cleaning, abatement projects and other work, there also will be some changes in security for the Milford Public Schools with the hiring of a new security coordinator.

Former Police Spokesman Jeff Nielsen was tapped to be the first security coordinator to oversee security in all of the city’s schools.

Nielsen will work with the Milford Police Department, ensure compliance with state security mandates, oversee crisis response plans and drills, organize yearly training for district employees, and handle building and infrastructure improvements.

According to Feser, Nielsen recently led a school safety and security training session with school administrators.