Up-Island schools implement new programs for students


West Tisbury School’s staff has begun a new process of looking at children’s needs in terms of learning, emotional, social, behavioral, and intervention, West Tisbury School Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt announced during an Up-Island School Committee meeting Monday. 

“We’ve implemented multitiered systems of support, which is an upgrade from RTI, which is response to intervention,” Lowell-Bettencourt said. “We’re really trying to catch these kids up on lost time.”

Lowell-Bettencourt said the effects of remote learning and the pandemic took a toll on students, and more needs are emerging than before. The school’s staff will be monitoring its students closely, and will decrease or increase intervention depending on how students do. Lowell-Bettencourt said blocks of time will also be set aside for teachers to meet students’ needs. She said the intervention process will be going through the whole school to gather data and anecdotal information to make sure “no kids fall through the cracks.” 

Meanwhile, Chilmark School Principal Susan Stevens said a pilot program using the Pollyanna curriculum that touches “very lightly” on racism has been implemented at her school. Kindergarteners will learn about colors, using things like rainbows, to give messages like “red isn’t better than yellow,” and so on. Older students will learn about skin colors, and how it’s related to where people live, and the temperature of the region. 

“It kind of just touches lightly on some of the differences some people have. It doesn’t really preach one thing or another, but it gives them just a little bit of an understanding about how we’re all different,” Stevens said. This program has been done on Friday afternoons. 

Assistant Superintendent Richie Smith said Pollyanna is a course to develop racial literacy. Chilmark School was selected for the pilot program because of its size and the principal’s interests in the topic. Smith said follow-up interviews and assessments with the school’s staff are planned to determine the efficacy of the program. 

Stevens said she has also filled out an application for $300 to purchase additional books for increasing the racial literacy of her students. 

In other business, Stevens said the students at Chilmark School have been doing all right so far. However, they are still being monitored using tools like the aimsweb testing system to make sure they are on the right track. 

Meanwhile, Stevens said Chilmark’s fourth and fifth graders built the “Haunted Gauntlet of Doom” as a fundraising effort. The haunted house raised $800 for 5Gyres, a nonprofit organization focused on reducing plastic pollution.