New literacy, STEAM programs at Athol Schools 

By Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 08-28-2023 4:24 PM

ATHOL — With a number of faculty additions and a new English Literacy Acquisition program, Athol Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Matt Ehrenworth he’s excited heading into the new school year.

Ehrenworth said the school year will have a focus on literacy and developing these skills at every grade level. To this end, the district has introduced new curriculum at the elementary and middle schools from digital education company Savvas Learning.

“It’s a comprehensive curriculum package,” Ehrenworth said. “For the elementary schools it’s called myViews, and for the middle school it’s called myPerspectives. Concurrently, at the secondary level, for both the middle and the high school, we’re introducing a program called Keys to Literacy.”

Keys to Literacy, the superintendent explained, is a program for middle and high school students meant to teach literacy across all content areas, “including the unified arts. It teaches our teachers to focus on writing and literacy skills no matter what content material they cover.”

In addition, said Ehernworth, there is a new digital literacy unified arts offering at Athol Community Elementary School and new STEAM program.

“Every student at ACES will be going through these new unified arts offerings,” he said. “Its focus is science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. It’s geared to be a very hands-on learning experience, and really introduce the students to scientific exploration, engineering, and concepts with respect to science and technology. It really integrates all of the pieces.”

Athol High School will see the introduction of an Early College Academy, which provides the opportunity to take classes at Mount Wachusett Community College. Ehrenworth said students in the program will be enrolled both at the high school and the college.

For the most part, Ehrenworth explained, classes available to academy students are STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) focused, though the curriculum is on the college level. In addition, the district has purchased a van to assist students with getting back and forth to Mount Wachusett.

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The new administrators at the district include Director of Pupil Services Christie Fontaine, Director of Technology Domenic Sergio, Director of Facilities Theodore Mallet III, Athol Royalston Middle School Principal Jason Webster, Royalston Community School Principal Carrie Charette and Nick Smith, Athol Community Elementary School Dean of Students. Business Manager Leah Jack, who had been with the district for two years, accepted a position with another school system.

Ehrenworth said Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) has established a bus stop in front of the high school earlier this year.

“Students who are old enough to take the bus by themselves—if they’ve missed the school bus they can jump on the MART bus,” he said. “And students ride free.”

The superintendent said the district is working to establish a free driver’s education program at the high school by the third or fourth quarter of the school year.

“We’ve been working with Athol Orange Driving School, and we’re going to partner with them – because they’re local – and we’re going to lease their company space during the day,” the superintendent said. “Then, through our budget and partnerships with other community organizations, we’re going to fund the cost of the course. The kids will be able to take driver’s ed for free.”

Students, if they choose, will still be able to pay to take instruction directly from the driving school. Those who do so will finish the course in about two weeks, while the course at the high school will last an entire quarter, according to Ehrenworth.

Ehrenworth assures parents that the school supplies list sent to them prior to the start of the year is just a list of recommended items to help kids feel prepared.

“The reality is, our families do not need to worry about sending their kids in with anything,” he said. “We are going to provide the students with absolutely everything they need to be successful.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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