Middle school expansion could open up new possibilities

By Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
With the middle schools building project expected to be completed by fall 2015, school administrators have discussed possible new opportunities in the curriculum after the renovations.
With more technology and space available at both DePaolo and Kennedy Middle Schools, curriculum changes will be recommended to better reflect 21st century learning, especially in the areas of Unified Arts. During the 2014-2015 school year, a Middle School Unified Arts Committee will be formed in the district to design programming that meets new standards and opportunities.
“The committee right now is still in its exploration phase,” said Principal Steven Madancy, of Kennedy Middle School, adding that the new committee will look at creative ways to use the additional space in regards to how the school offers the unified arts courses.
Madancy said he hopes the additional space will provide flexibility and an opportunity to enhance 21st century learning skills in students. He mentioned the possibility of modifying a wood shop class to take on a more “STEM-like” style, using more technology and materials not used in the past. Madancy also said students using the music room will now have more space to practice together.
“They often don’t have times to practice together—now they will because of the large space,” said Madancy, adding that the additional space will provide sectionals to take place during Unified Arts time.
Both Madancy and Chris Palmieri, the assistant principal of DePaolo Middle School, said the new art space will allow an opportunity to integrate more technology into art. The new art room will be attached to a computer lab, allowing the possibility of adding digital photography or even graphic design to the curriculum, they said. The combined art and computer lab, which will take the place of the former library media center, is expected to be complete in six months.
“Middle school is always about the exploratory years for kids—that’s something we had prior to the renovation that we really want to preserve,” Madancy said.  “We want to keep the exploratory philosophy intact, but we also want to provide enhanced opportunities for kids who do find a passion or interest to maybe pursue it a little deeper than maybe we currently are unable to offer them.”
With the new state-of-the-art library media centers, school administrators say students and teachers will have more opportunities to integrate technology into instructional time. Palmieri said since grades are broken up into teams at both middle schools, the new media centers provide them with one space to meet together, which the former media center did not provide.
“It gives us another large meeting space for teams,” said Palmieri, adding that after construction, teams will also have their own classrooms close to one another.
“It’s a large, wide-open space,” added Madancy. “We hope for that to be transformed even further into truly the hub of learning for the school, as we get more technology available to us.”
Palmieri said the new media centers have more wireless access and increased power, providing students and teachers to bring their own devices.
“It’s an additional opportunity available to us,” said Palmieri, adding that the new media center will include new furniture as well as a projector.
“We’re getting a lot of WiFi in the building, which we never had before,” added Madancy.
Madancy said students have used the new media center during class instructional time, using their mobile devices, laptops and iPads. He said students have used the center for research in their classes. During their time spent researching in the media center, students have access to a digital card catalogue through a program that allows them to find resources available in the center itself and online.
“We definitely sense a high level of student motivation as we continue to integrate technology into teaching and learning,” said Madancy.

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