Thursday, August 22, 2002

Cape readies for school start Aug. 29

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth schools are getting set for school to begin Aug. 29, and returning students will see a few changes this year.

At Pond Cove School, new playgrounds may be in place in time for school to start, or soon thereafter, according to Principal Tom Eismeier. Erik Nielsen will start as a permanent fourth-grade teacher, and two other new teachers will be filling in for people on leave, Eismeier said.

Some furniture has changed hands, too. “There was a fair amount of room switching,” he said.

At the middle school, the big news is the laptops, according to Principal Nancy Hutton. “We’re very excited,” she said. Laptop computers have arrived for the seventh graders and are being readied for distribution in the first couple of weeks of school.

Also new this year will be the week that seventh-graders go to Camp Kieve as part of their outdoor education program. Rather than after Thanksgiving, as in the past, Hutton said the trip will happen in October.

At the high school, the science curriculum is the largest change, with freshmen starting a new science class sequence, starting with physics and moving to chemistry, and biology in subsequent years, followed by a science elective senior year, said Principal Jeff Shedd.

This places a large load on the science teachers during the transition, in which juniors and freshmen will be studying physics, though they will use very different approaches, including different textbooks, mathematical complexities and experiments, Shedd said.

All high school teachers will have time off each week with other members of their departments, to work on assessment planning. “It will be a real stimulus
to teachers working together, ” Shedd said.

District-wide, teachers will continue to work on curriculum and professional development on their own time, said Superintendent Tom Forcella. The district is also beginning a partnership with a district in Pennsylvania and one in Missouri, to “move our districts to another level,” Forcella said.

The alliance, which Forcella said will expand to as many as four other districts in the eastern part of the U.S., is modeled on a similar program in several western states. The first meeting of the three districts will be in October, and will begin to address the issues schools have in common, aside from state funding issues commonly discussed at intra-state gatherings of schools. The idea is to make the districts stronger on a larger scale than just Maine, Forcella said.

“Our kids compete nationally and, eventually, globally,” he said.

Budget cuts also weigh on Forcella and school officials. Cape’s state funding for schools was cut by $40,000 over the summer, and Forcella thinks it’s not over yet. “This is just the beginning,” he said, noting that state budget deficit figures are projected to increase to as much as $1 billion in the next three years.

Forcella said the district has been hard-pressed to find qualified science, foreign language and special education teachers during the summer hiring processes. He said the problem is there are fewer applicants for available
positions, and added that many foreign language teacher training programs prepare people to teach high school students. Much of the need, especially in Cape Elizabeth, he said, is for primary-level foreign language teachers.