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Writing and Reporting by Jenna Duncan

Posts Tagged ‘public schools

Tears mark closing of Roxbury elementary school

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Published June 29, 2011 in The Boston Globe, page B3

Staff and students shared tears yesterday on the last day at Roxbury’s Emerson Elementary, one of the Boston public schools that is closing before next school year.

“It’s heartbreaking to me, because I’m leaving our community,” said Betty Constantino, a teacher at the school for all 24 years of her career. “It’s frustrating, because it’s a great school and nobody has realized that.”

The school caters to students from Cape Verde, and teachers have even traveled to the island to understand their students’ origins.

Because most students have similar ethnic backgrounds, the school provides a sense of community, Constantino said, and a place for former students to visit.

“We have a lot of students that come back to visit us every year, and now they’ll have nowhere to go,” she said.

Principal Vivian Swoboda coordinated a luncheon for the teachers and staff yesterday, where they reflected on their time at the school.

While Constantino expects to go to Umana School in East Boston, she said she wishes that Emerson Elementary School did not have to close.

“The principal seems lovely, and I’m excited to go there, but I would have spent my whole career at Emerson,” she said.

Written by jdunccc

June 29, 2011 at 10:23 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

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Nitric acid spill forces evacuations in Grafton

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Published on April 8, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

Cleanup crews are at a chemical transportation company in Grafton today after a nitric acid spill that forced the evacuation of all buildings within a half-mile radius, including North Grafton Elementary School, officials said.

At 11:15 a.m., about five gallons of nitric acid spilled at Dana Transport Inc. and mixed with other chemicals, town officials said in a statement. Vapors began escaping the building, located at 88 Westborough Road, leading officials to call for the evacuations.

Department of Environmental Protection officials and hazardous materials crews were called to the scene, as well as Grafton police and fire.

Though the elementary school is not quite in the half-mile radius, it was evacuated “under an abundance of caution,” the statement said, and students were taken to Grafton Elementary School.

“The kids were very orderly and transitioned into Grafton Elementary School where they were paired with other classes,” said Grafton School Superintendent Joseph Connors. “The day goes on for us and we’ll dismiss at the regular time.”

Written by jdunccc

April 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

Westford to destroy school food from suspect facility

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Published on March 31, 2011 in The Boston Globe, page B2

Nearly $10,000 worth of food and supplies owned by Westford public schools must be thrown away because the town’s Board of Health found the conditions substandard at the facility where the goods were stored, officials said.

The district has used a warehouse on Town Farm Road for about 35 years to store frozen food and dry goods, such as boxes of Styrofoam trays, Superintendent Everett Olsen said.

The town’s director of health care services, Sandy Collins, said that when the Board of Health inspected the property, it found three major violations. She declined to say exactly what the violations were, but said they involved sanitary conditions, the security of the building, and the food’s rotation schedule.

“Because of the conditions and some of the issues the board was grappling with, they made the determination to just have all of the product destroyed to make sure with 100 percent certainty the public safety is protected,” Collins said.

Frozen foods will now be delivered directly to the schools, Olsen said, and the dry goods will be stored in his own office. He said he and other district officials will work closely with the Board of Health to rectify the situation.

“We want to maintain the confidence of parents,” Olsen said. “We have an excellent school system in Westford, and the last thing I will ever do as superintendent is jeopardize the health and safety of our students and staff.”

The violations were discovered after about 70 students at Blanchard Middle School were absent because of a stomach virus about two weeks ago, Olsen said. The school nurse called the Health Department, which looked into the matter.

Collins said her department spoke with several doctors in the area and looked at other schools to see if the outbreak was affecting only Westford. They inspected the food service at the middle school and the storage facility.

While the investigation found health violations at the facility, she said, it found no link between the violations and the illnesses.

In coming days, the Board of Health will supervise the disposal of the goods and work closely with the district to maintain health standards.

“They’re being very cooperative, and they’re trying to give us as much information as possible,” Collins said. “There are no issues going forward.”

Written by jdunccc

March 31, 2011 at 9:02 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

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For students in at least two towns, roof problems mean a day off

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Published on February 7, 2011 in The Boston Globe MetroDesk Blog

It hasn’t snowed for several days. But students in Methuen and Georgetown are still getting “snow days” because of concerns that the roofs of their school buildings might be unsafe.

Methuen officials said they were closing both today and Tuesday so workers could clear snow from the roofs.

“It was the correct thing to do to relieve some of the pressure on those roofs,” said Methuen Mayor William Manzi, who met with school officials Friday to determine a course of action.

The meeting followed a recommendation Thursday from an architectural firm, a school department statement said. An outside contractor is performing the snow removal, and school will be reopened Wednesday.

“In order to get the work done in the safest possible manner, we cannot have children in the vicinity,” Superintendent Judith Scannell said in the statement.

The Georgetown public schools were closed again today after there was a partial collapse at Perley Elementary School last Thursday, said Fire Chief Albert Beardsley.

“In speaking with the building inspector, they still want a state engineer to come in and evaluate the building before we can start the process of reopening” the school, he said.

Today there is a crane removing snow from the school’s roof and dumping it on the ballfield, he said. The rest of the district’s schools are just about done with the snow removal.


Written by jdunccc

February 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

Weather threatens students’ vacations

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Published on January 28, 2011 in The Boston Globe, Page B4

-Shared byline with Matt Rocheleau

Two more snow days could require Boston public schools to cut into student vacation time to make up for lost instruction time.

Extending the year into July, however, is not an option because the city’s contract with the teachers union does not allow it, said Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman.

Yesterday marked the fourth snow-related school cancellation in the past two weeks. Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said in a statement that “considering it is only January, we may have to begin looking at days already reserved as school vacation days later in the school year, to make up these missed days.”

All public schools in Massachusetts are required to hold 180 days of classes each academic year. School districts account for cancellations by using a 185-day schedule, leaving a five-day cushion at the end of the year.

With no snow days, Hub students would have been dismissed for the summer on June 21. But with yesterday’s cancellation, they will not be able to belt out Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” until June 27, a Monday.

One more cancellation would push the academic year to June 28. If Boston has a sixth cancellation, the city might target vacation time before July 1 for make-ups.

“If we have a couple more, we’re going to have to look at other ways to make these up,” said Wilder. “At this stage, I think everything is on the table.”

State Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester is not granting waivers to the state’s 180-day requirement at this point in the school year, Education Department spokesman JC Considine said yesterday.

“There is still time for districts that have had to close for multiple days to adjust their calendars to ensure that our students do not lose out on valuable learning time,” Considine said.

He said state law does not prohibit districts from extending the year beyond June 30, although collective-bargaining agreements or local ordinances can prevent districts, like Boston, from pushing the academic year into July.”

Before yesterday, Boston schools shut down because of snow on Jan. 12, 13, and 21.

“We are well aware that closing school is not optimal for our families and our students,” Johnson said in announcing the latest cancellation.

“However, the safety of our students,” she said, “must be our first priority at all times.”

Written by jdunccc

January 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Posted in The Boston Globe

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