New school awaits students; all-day kindergarten begins in Falmouth

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FALMOUTH — Elementary school students and teachers are expected to have an exciting first few weeks as they explore their new building on Woodville Road.

The $37.7 million Falmouth Elementary School will open Sept. 6 (Sept. 7 for kindergartners), bringing all the district’s schools together on one campus.

The new school, which is financed 84 percent by the state and 16 percent by the town, will house kindergarten through fifth grade and includes several energy efficiencies, including solar hot water panels, radiant heat, green garden roofs and geothermal heating and cooling systems.

A new wood-chip boiler installed at the high school will also be used to heat the elementary school. A wood-chip boiler for the middle school, approved by voters in June, will be installed next year.

Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers said the School Department hopes having all the schools in close proximity will save money and create efficiencies that haven’t even been imagined.

“We’re still looking to see what one-campus opportunities develop,” she said.

All students will now be inside school buildings, ending years of extensive use of portable classrooms.

There will be open houses for elementary school students, starting with kindergarten from 9-10 a.m. on Aug. 31. Grades 1, 3 and 5 are invited from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, followed by grades 2 and 4 from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

A public ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m.

The town and schools are anticipating the installation of a street light at the corner of Woodville and Falmouth roads to help alleviate traffic problems there. Powers said the light would not be installed in time for the first day of school, but that it should be coming this fall.

Enrollment has continued to increase and Powers said she has talked to many people moving in from outside the state because of a Forbes magazine report that listed Falmouth as the No. 1 place in the country “to live and learn.”

“Enrollment is pretty robust right now. Thankfully, we have plenty of grow room,” she said.

Part of the reason enrollment is up is that the district will begin offering all-day kindergarten this year. Powers said 141 students have enrolled in the new program, significantly more than the town typically has for kindergarten.

The department is also offering preschool and day care at the new school for children of teachers, staff and student-parents. While there is space for additional children, Powers said the programs have reached the maximum staff-to-child ratio. The program, paid for by participant fees, may expand if there is more demand in the future, she said.

The School Department has also introduced a new website designed by volunteer Debbie Hastings, and built by department staff. The goal of the new design, Powers said, is to make the most popular parts of the site no more than one click away.

Cathy Stankard, formerly a teacher in the high school, is the department’s new curriculum director in charge of implementing the common core standards in literacy and math. Martha Polinquin is stepping into the role of food services director.

Ten minutes have also been added to the school schedules this year. The middle and high school hours are 8 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. and the elementary school hours are 8:45 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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Artist Sean Foley, of Columbus, Ohio, puts the final touches on a two-story art installation at the new Falmouth Elementary School on Woodville Road. The artist and his assistant, Katie Bullock, installed the work, including an interactive “curiosity cabinet” for students, over the summer as part of the Percent for Art program, which makes funds available for art in public buildings. Foley said the art is meant to invoke the motion of ideas, flowing from the children and teachers below up toward the library door.

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