By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The city’s schools are gearing up for a new school and for many parents their first contact with the school district is the Parent Information Center (PIC) at 91 School St.
With the start of classes just a few weeks away the PIC was busy with parents enrolling their children and seeking other services when its director Dr. Lourdes Soto gave a media tour of the building.
She explained the PIC had formally been in the basement of the nearby Milton Bradley School and the move around the block to a building that has once housed a charter school enlarged their facility by four times.
She said now the district has a “fully functioning parent engagement center for a variety of services, not just registration.”
Soto sees the PIC as the “gateway” for parents to the school system and has implemented a system, which will make entry into the district “welcoming.”
She noted, “We’re the first people parents see.”
New this year to the PIC is the Family Resource Center, which has a variety of programs to build collaboration between parents and schools. She said, for example, the resource center would inform a school when parents are bringing their child in order to welcome them. Parents get to see photos of the school before they go there.
The resource center, Soto added, works with the Springfield Parent Academy in enrolling parents into classes and workshops so they can help their children.
The PIC is the place parents need to go for registration, school assignments and transfers, language assessments for non-English speaking students, placement for special education students and health services.
Soto noted the additional room provides greater privacy for parents speaking to PIC staff about their children and noted that in the lower level of the building construction is still underway for some offices and areas. The grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 22.
She said the PIC has different hours than the school system and is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
The new location of the PIC is just one of the elements of the new school year, according to information provided by Azell Caavan, the district’s chief communications officer.
Forest Park Middle School will re-open on Aug. 26 after a three-year $48 million renovation with more classrooms, state-of-the-art science labs and more space for special education classes
Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone will be the keynote speaker for the district’s annual 2013 Convocation for all faculty and staff on Aug. 23 at Van Sickle Middle School/The Springfield Renaissance School.
The district and Sodexo, the schools’ food services company, will host the fourth annual Back to School Celebration on Aug. 24 (rain or shine) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Blunt Park. The event is free and open to public school students, staff and their families. Along with food, music and games, there will be 5,000 backpacks distributed to the first students to arrive with an adult.
Kennedy Middle School, 1385 Berkshire Ave., will serve as a Back-to-School BBQ satellite location where food will be served and 1,200 backpacks distributed.