It is hard to believe that June is here. Another school year has passed, another extraordinary year of growth for our students in every facet of their developmentas scholars, artists, performers, athletes, friends, and capable young people who have come a considerable distance since those hazy September days. And they are not alone. As everyone knows, the school has been looking very closely at its own growth opportunities as we welcome a larger group of students into the sixth grade program and shift the end of lower school to fifth grade and the start of middle school to sixth. These shifts, the anticipated midyear opening of the Barn, and our curricular reviews have resulted in a number of moving parts to manage internally in advance of next year.
While we have been communicating milestones, decisions, and changes in real time along the way, as the year wraps up, I want to let everyone know what to expect for next year as the dust settles on our design efforts. What follows are descriptions of the similarities and differences in space, staffing, and program offerings from this year to next at Belmont Day. As summer wraps up in August, you can expect a curriculum update that will reflect the work already done this year and more that will be done this summer. While we are ready for a relaxing and rejuvenating summer, we can’t wait to get started on the exciting opportunities that await in the fall. So here, without further ado, is what to expect for the fall.
Pre-kindergarten – There is no substantive change to the pre-k program next year. The dynamic teaching team of Alice Henry and Kate Oznick, with support from MaryBeth McMahon for extended day, will return and welcome our youngest community members. Music teacher Frank Toppa will join the pre-k team and incoming Lower School Head Minna Ham will be a resource to the teaching team and pre-kindergarten parents. Pre-k students will have their first experiences in PE, library, and French classes. Learning/reading specialist Heather Smith and school psychologist Leesa Mercedes will continue as resources.
Kindergarten – There is no substantive change to the kindergarten program next year. Betty Pryor and Brianna McDuffee will lead our kindergarteners through another magical year. As in pre-k, Frank Toppa will teach music, and Minna Ham will be a resource to the teaching team and kindergarten parents. Heather Smith and Leesa Mercedes also continue as resources. Anne Armstrong and Kathy Jo Solomon will teach art. Kindergarten students will continue PE, library, and French classes.
First grade – There is no substantive change to the first grade program. Beth Krebs and Maria Ramirez will lead our first grade students as they move down the hall from kindergarten. As in pre-k and kindergarten, Frank Toppa will teach music, and Minna Ham will be a resource to the teaching team and first grade parents. Heather Smith and Leesa Mercedes also continue as resources. French, art, performing arts, library, and PE classes continue for first graders. Woodworking with Bill Smith will be added to the first grade program for the first time. For lunch, first and second graders will dine together with teachers.
Second grade – There is no substantive change to the second grade program. Nancy Fell and Tina Fox will lead our second grade students as they, along with first grade, take a front row seat to the opening of the Barn. New music teacher Yui Kitamura will teach second grade. Minna Ham will be a resource to the team and second grade parents. Heather Smith and Leesa Mercedes also continue to be members of the team. Students will continue to attend French, PE, art, woodworking, library, and performing arts classes. For lunch, second and first graders will eat together with teachers.
Third grade – There is no substantive programmatic change here as Larissa Rochford ’93 and Leigh Twarog return for another year of great teaching in third grade. The location of the classroom will change. Third graders are moving to the Coolidge Art Studio and ID8 Lab on the second floor of what is currently the fifth/sixth floor in the middle school wing. They will be joined there by fourth and fifth grades to create a cohesive and intentional elementary community of learners. Yui Kitamura will teach third grade. Minna Ham will be a resource to the team and third grade parents. Students will continue to attend French, PE, art, woodworking, and performing arts classes. Learning specialist Ellie Brennan and Leesa Mercedes continue to be members of the third grade support team. For lunch, third, fourth, and fifth graders will eat together with teachers.
Fourth grade – Fourth grade will join third grade in the move to new classrooms. Fourth grade will occupy what are currently sixth grade classrooms. While there are no substantive changes to the academic program, we are pleased to offer two options for fourth graders to participate in string and wind ensembles. Students who are capable may participate in the fourth to eighth grade music ensembles on Friday mornings at 7:15 a.m. Students who are just beginning their study of music may participate in the first to fourth grade ensembles on Tuesday afternoons. Physical education will be added to the weekly schedule. Yui Kitamura will teach music. Students will continue to attend French, art, woodworking, library, and performing arts classes. Minna will work with the fourth grade team, students, and parents as well. Ellie Brennan and Leesa Mercedes continue to be members of the fourth grade support team. For lunch, fourth grade will dine with third and fifth grades.
Fifth grade – While there will be no geographical change for the fifth grade team of Debbie Grossman and Julia Juster, fifth grade will become the final grade in the lower school division. The team has been hard at work considering the leadership opportunities that this shift will provide. We are confident that our fifth graders will take on this mantle of responsibility with enthusiasm. We will add an information literacy program to the already robust work of librarian Amy Sprung in the classroom. Minna Ham will work with the fifth grade team, students, and parents as well. The fifth to eighth grade ensemble program will add fourth graders and meet on Fridays at 7:15 a.m. Yui Kitamura will teach music. Fifth grade students will continue to attend Foundation for Language Learning, PE, art, technology, woodworking, and performing arts classes. Ellie Brennan and Leesa Mercedes will be members of the fifth grade support team. Fifth grade students will eat lunch with their third and fourth grade elementary counterparts.
Sixth grade – First, what will stay the same: school begins at 8:00 a.m. and the dynamic duo of Kaleen Moriarty and Dean Spencer will remain on the teaching teamas science and social studies teachers, respectivelyand both will teach every sixth grade student. The Farm School trip, Freedom Night, astronomy morning, and solar car races are all returning as well. Learning specialist Mary Ellen Coyne-Gordon and Leesa Mercedes continue to be members of the sixth grade support team.
Now for what’s new: all sixth grade students will participate in the interscholastic athletics program. The art program will provide every sixth grader with exposure to all of our art offerings and arts teachers: woodworking, theater arts, music, visual arts, and digital art. On the academic front, we will adopt a discipline-based schedule where students will move from English to language to science, and so on. Speaking of languageLatin, taught by new teacher Nicole Buck, will be an option along with French and Spanish. Geographically, the current third and fourth grade classrooms will become the sixth grade hub and cubby location with students also learning in classroom spaces on the Kiva level. To help students navigate these similarities and differences, we are moving from the homeroom model to the advisory model with new faculty Jonathan Drummey (sixth and seventh grade English) and Brian Laskowski (sixth grade math and seventh grade science) joining Kaleen and Dean as sixth grade advisors.
Seventh grade – While the fall Cardigan Mountain trip and spring world language trips will continue, there are exciting changes afoot in seventh grade. Most notably, the humanities curriculum will move to a modular structure where every student will rotate through different teachers throughout the year. In English, these teachers will be Elisabeth Klock, Jonathan Drummey and (can you feel my excitement from here?) me. In social studies, the mods will be taught by Middle School Head Liz Gray and new hire, Suzanne Caruso (seventh and eighth grade social studies.) Three advisors will work with seventh grade: Nicole Buck, math teacher RJ Parsons, and science teacher Sandra Trentowsky. Mary Ellen Coyne-Gordon and Leesa Mercedes continue to be members of the seventh grade support team.
Eighth grade – What’s the same? The Thompson Island experience, the world language and Washington, DC trips, and Capstone. We will continue to support eighth graders as student leadersfor sharing assemblies and lunch routines, and as cross-graded partners and team captains. What’s changing? The research and writing experience of Capstone will be led by Suzanne Caruso, with Amy Sprung and world language teacher and Capstone Coordinator Jen Friborg. The advisory team will include Suzanne Caruso, English teacher Elisabeth Klock, and world language and Spanish teacher William Yepes. Graduation will be a middle school community celebration with required attendance by sixth and seventh graders who will no doubt be inspired by the poise and accomplishments of their eighth grade classmates, teammates, and friends. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students will all dine together. Mary Ellen Coyne-Gordon and Leesa Mercedes continue to be members of the eighth grade support team.
We are eager to see what this year of research and hard work to design the best possible programmatic opportunities for our students will yield. Of course, we also look forward to the opening of the Barn after Thanksgiving and the countless ways it will transform every student’s experience from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. If you find a thing or two absent from this chronicle of where we have landed, please forgive me. Nothing has been omitted with intent, least of all, the details of our rich curriculum. As I mentioned, summer work will refine our implementation plans; keep an eye out for in-depth curriculum descriptions in August.
I hope that this provides a framework for next year as you head into summer. As this is my last Scoop article of the year, I sincerely hope that summer brings you peace, joy, and time to connect with the ones you love. It has been such a wonderful year here at Belmont Day and it has gone by in a blur. From the BDS family to yours
Have a wonderful summer.