Next Thursday morning, familiar yellow school buses will roll across Island roads carrying students from kindergarten through 12th grade to their first day of school.
Total school enrollment is expected to be just over 2,000 in five public elementary schools and the regional high school, according to Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss.
Schools will be sprinkled with new teachers as well as new programs, from changes in the kitchen at the West Tisbury School to changes in the classrooms at the Edgartown School.
After starting renovations on July 1, the West Tisbury school’s new kitchen is almost complete with a few housekeeping items left, said Amy Tierney, school business administrator. The new kitchen will allow elementary school cooks to prepare lunches on-site for the 265 West Tisbury students and 61 Chilmark students.
Two big budget items — a convection oven and dishwasher — are installed, as well as a new outdoor refrigerator-freezer unit outside the kitchen back door.
“We are coming down to the wire now,” said Ms. Tierney. “You’d be amazed if you saw all the people running around, putting things away, cleaning and shelving.”
She said the volunteers have been vital in getting the renovations completed in time.
“There have been so many volunteers I’d be afraid to say because I’d definitely forget someone,” Ms. Tierney said.
West Tisbury School principal Michael Halt echoed the gratitude at the Up-Island Regional School District committee Monday night.
“There’s too much thanks to go around,” he said. “Not only laborers, but parent volunteers who have helped organize.”
Head cook Jennifer Devivo will be using the school food management program Nutrikids to establish a government-approved menu and is also working with Island Grown Initiative to buy vegetables from local farms.
On Tuesday Ms. Devivo and staff will prepare a demonstration lunch for teachers and transport hot lunches up to the Chilmark school for a practice run. West Tisbury and Chilmark students will pay by the meal; the cost is $2.75 per lunch.
The Edgartown School begins a new one-year pilot math enrichment program for grades five, six and seven. The program will be headed by new hire Louis Smadbeck, who is not a new face in the schools. Mr. Smadbeck attended the Edgartown School and graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1997 as class valedictorian and a Presidential Scholar. He studied math at Princeton University and later received his teaching degree from New York University.
Edgartown School principal John Stevens said selection criteria for the program is mainly test scores. Based on those scores, Mr. Smadbeck will meet with individuals to test and assess skills. Mr. Stevens said the math enrichment classes will be formed by the end of September.
“[Mr. Smadbeck] will be using computerized instruction, interactive smart boards, group problem solving — very, very different, out-of-the-box teaching,” said Mr. Stevens.
He said the program, which was approved by the town school committee in mid-July, focuses on students with high abilities in math, but he hopes the program methods will spill into other classrooms.
“[Mr. Smadbeck] brings a lot of energy and knowledge to the position,” Mr. Stevens said. “His interaction with the other teachers will create a synergy that will be beneficial to all students.”
If the pilot program succeeds, next year the eighth grade will join the math enrichment program.
The regional high school has 15 new teachers, five of them working with a new alternative program and therapeutic program, said Mr. Weiss. The new alternative program for grades nine through 12 will replace the former Star and Rebecca Amos programs.
Neither of the new programs have been named.
“Once school starts, teachers will work with students to come up with an appropriate name and give them some ownership,” the superintendent said.
The alternative program provides learning and instruction for kids who “march to a different drummer,” said Mr. Weiss. The therapeutic program is for students with social, emotional or behavioral problems.
Faculty and administrative staff will also be experiencing changes due to the Island public schools adopting the Massachusetts professional educator evaluation system, said Mr. Weiss. The system stresses the value of effective teachers for a student’s learning experience.
“Instead of worrying as much as we do on buildings and buses, we have to focus our energy on student instruction,” he said. “We have to be in classes more, give feedback to our teachers . . . it’s a huge change in how we operate.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School is full, with an enrollment of 180 students, said school director Bob Moore. He said the school is expecting a 2013 graduating class of 13 students, the largest to date. Nine students graduated from the charter school in May.
The high school math, English, and social studies teachers will continue integrating their curriculum under an umbrella theme — this year the theme is social justice.
Freshman orientation at the high school is Wednesday; all other students begin school on Thursday. Teachers return to their classrooms on Tuesday.