| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The city has received $3.5 million in a new round of grants from the federal departments of Education and Health and Human Services to help fund free preschool.
The only community that received more money than Springfield was Boston. The announcement was made at the School Committee meeting on Dec. 1.
School Superintendent Daniel Warwick noted the grant could open up 200 more opportunities for children to be served. Currently there are 11 classrooms in the city participating in the program that Warwick said, “It is actually a model for the state.” Boston has 15, Holyoke, four, Lawrence 10, and Lowell has eight classrooms in comparison.
The program is a partnership between the public school system with community-based early education and care programs.
In other action, the committee congratulated the staff and administration of STEM Middle Academy from going from a Level 3 school to a Level 1 school.
Principal Kevin Lalime said the change is a result of “a combination of a clear goal and having staff that come in and work hard.”
He said at the school the philosophy for staff and students is “everything matters.”
Warwick added the committee has received a letter from Mitchell Chester. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, confirming that William N. DeBerry Elementary School will be advanced from Level 4 status to Level 3.
“I commend the district for seeking to continue a wide range of authorities and flexibilities that have contributed to the positive gain and improvement that DeBerry Elementary School has experienced and for your commitment to sustaining those gains in the future.”
Warwick announced the drinking water for the city’s schools is being tested by the state departments of Public Health and Environmental Protection. The test is voluntary and is designed to identity problems with lead and copper exposure.
The city will receive school-by-school results this month, Warwick said.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said any water related issue discovered would be taken care of immediately.
The committee noted the Springfield Empowerment Zone is presenting a series of community conversation revolving around making improvements at the High School of Commerce. The schedule is as follow: Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. at the Sixteen Acres Library; Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. at the Forest Park Library; Jan. 4, 2017 at 5 p.m. at the Lions’ Den Youth Center, 40 Front St, Indian Orchard; Jan. 5, 2017 at 5 p.m. at the Brightwood Library; Jan. 12, 2017, at 5 p.m. at the Elias Brookings School; and Jan. 18, 2017, at 5 p.m. at the Central Library.