3rd grade ‘campus’ due this fall

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent 


Third-graders in Lyndhurst public schools will be on the move when classes resume for the fall term in September.

They are being consolidated into one school – with a detached addition to Jefferson Community School at New York and Second Aves. – to reduce class size and to provide departmentalized instruction.

“We’re viewing this as a model pilot program,” said Schools Superintendent Tracey Marinelli.

The thinking among Lyndhurst educators was to reestablish a kindergarten, first and second grade “culture” and to set third-graders apart as a separate collective unit, the superintendent said.

At the same time, the district will be setting itself up to better prepare for the new state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers), which, starting in the 2014-15 school year, will test students in grades 3 to 8 in language arts and math.

Instead of having third-graders in self-contained classes where kids learn social studies, language arts, science and math from one classroom teacher, starting in September those kids will be moving from class to class, getting instruction in each subject from teachers with certification in those areas, according to Marinelli.

Using this approach, Marinelli said, “we will increase the rigor of the curriculum by restructuring scope and sequence and by allowing teachers to teach to their strengths, thereby optimizing student growth and achievement.”

How will this process happen?

Last month, the Lyndhurst Board of Education contracted with Vanguard Modular Building Systems of Malvern, Pa., to build an 8,600 square foot facility that will house eight modular classrooms, a multi-purpose room with two bathrooms, computer room and science lab.

That “addition” will link to the 9,800 square foot main school building via a covered walkway and the approximately 200 or so third-graders anticipated this fall will go back and forth between the two buildings, which, together, will constitute a third-grade “campus.”

The district will pay $1.4 million for the modulars. How installment payments will be structured has yet to worked out but School Business Administrator David DiPisa said the district “will own them after 60 months.”

Marinelli said that under the new configuration, a third-grade classroom should hold an average of approximately 25 students – down from the current average of 30 or more.

Earlier in the year, school administrators had their eye on possibly leasing the old St. Michael’s parochial school at Page Ave. and Ridge Road but, in negotiations with the Archdiocese, “the rental was two and a half times what we’d expected to pay,” DiPisa said.

DiPisa said the modular units are being assembled, together with utility connections, in Pennsylvania and the contractor has already applied for footing permits from the township Building Department so that when the units arrive, they can be easily installed and should be ready for occupancy when school opens in early September.

A covered walkway will link the modulars to the 9,800 square foot Jefferson Community School building.

On the personnel side, Marinelli said an additional third-grade teacher is being hired to help facilitate the expansion, from the current seven sections of third grade classes, to eight sections, in the fall. Longtime staffer Peggy Romano will serve in a dual role as principal and district director of special services.

“We will be doing an open house and tours for parents and guardians before school begins,” she said.

The kindergarten classes that have occupied Jefferson Community up to now will be split among Washington, Columbus and Franklin schools, Marinelli said. The district will also be creating two “transition kindergartens” for children with developmental issues at Franklin and Washington schools. Those youngsters will be given three years to “transition” from kindergarten to grade 1.

Other school infrastructure work slated for this summer, according to DiPisa, includes: a new lower roof at Lincoln School, replacement of interior stair treads and three new kindergarten bathrooms at Franklin School, renovated bathrooms and a new computer lab at Columbus School, and a new kindergarten bathroom at Washington School. The district previously replaced windows at Washington School, he said.

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