Back to school

MANCHESTER - The new school year has started and some of the independent and private schools in the area have seen new programs, students and teachers come through their hallways.

Burr and Burton Academy, with their first day of class Thursday, Aug. 28, has two programs - the Mountain Campus and the woodworking class - that have seen some large changes. Mark Tashjian, head master, said an internship has been added to the Mountain Campus.

"We added an internship program so that we can make connections with colleges while sharing a tremendous teacher training opportunity of being part of the Mountain Campus program," he said in an email. "Our first intern, Izzy Caldwell, comes to us from Dartmouth College and she lives right in the area."

As for woodshop, the program has become more focused on design, as opposed to a more traditional woodworking class, Tashjian said. John Mowry, who works as both a professional designer and woodworker, has also taught science and will teach the class. The class has new design equipment, including computer aided design hardware and software, he said.

Along with changes to these two programs, the student success program was expanded to not just prepare students for college, but to prepare new students for high school. This summer, 31 incoming freshmen spent three weeks in Success Camp, designed to help them transition to high school, Tashjian said.

"The work will continue throughout the year in a course called Prep for Success, which will augment their regular classes by providing support, guidance, and continued focus on the program's motto: Goals, Habits, Growth," he said.

This year, there are 667 students enrolled and three new teachers at BBA. Tashjian said he most looks forward to seeing his students succeed. He said it is "a joy" to watch students develop their talents and passions.

Maple Street School has seen what head of school Fran Bisselle called a huge jump in students in the past few years. Total enrollment for this school year is 117, up from 96 just two years ago. No new classes were added to accommodate the student growth; there are just more students per classroom.

"We have a wait list in six of our classes right now," she said. "We're not looking to get much larger."

Bisselle said the current number of students enrolled at Maple Street is the perfect amount to continue with "academic excellence and joyful learning."

Instead of adding new programs and classes, Maple Street School is expanding some already established programs. Bisselle said the djembe drumming program will get larger and the music department even has new drums from Ghana. The Shakespeare program in the upper grades will be expanded as well. Bisselle said more students will participate in staging one of Shakespeare's plays.

Five new teachers were added to the faculty, including one that previously worked at Maple Street before taking time off to raise a family. For Bisselle, the best part of the school year is getting to work with the faculty and staff. She said she is also looking forward to serving on the board of the National Association of Independent Schools, bringing Maple Street's perspective of independent education into the national dialogue. But mostly, she's excited to see the new Kindergartners.

"Who wouldn't be excited to see the new class of Kindergartners show up on the first day of school," she said. "It's great to watch them grow and come into their own."

For Long Trail School Head Steven Dear, he is most looking forward to meeting all the new students, coming for their first day on Tuesday Aug. 26. Long Trail has also seen growth in enrollment. Up 10 percent from last year, there are now 170 students enrolled. Along with new students, Long Trail has welcomed four new educators.

"We're up in terms of students, we're up in terms of donors, the sky's the limit," he said.

Dear said every year, the International Baccalaureate program changes. Long trail is the only school to offer the program currently in Vermont, so while he said this program is not new, it is still very unique. The middle school will be seeing a new course, called Creativity Action Self (CAS).

"This course combines the Physical Arts with self reflection, adolescent development service learning and survival skills," he said.

Over the summer, Dear said Long Trail was not dormant. Students performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Theater Festival in Scotland, there were full summer camp programs and the greenhouse on campus is now fully operational and producing what Dear called, "a bounty of produce."

The Downtown School is a new edition to the education landscape this year. Founded by Alexa Manning and Jason and Natalie Pergament, it is a progressive model of education for students grades K-8. Currently, the school is only offering kindergarten through third grade, but will add grades each year. The first day of school for The Downtown School is Sept. 3.

Manning, the head of school, said the team is very excited to welcome the founding families to the inaugural year.

"It's been a thrilling, challenging, and at times overwhelming process to bring this new education choice to our community," she said. "We look forward to providing a unique and exceptional elementary school experience to our region for generations to come."


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