New programs start small, finish after school

LYNN — Two vastly different programs are being rolled out in Lynn Public Schools this year.

One is a social emotional program, TeachTown, starting first in pre-K and kindergarten, according to Kimberlee Powers, executive director of curriculum and instruction and new deputy superintendent, who presented the program at a School Committee meeting Thursday night.

Lynn Vocational Technical Institute is starting an afterschool program for high school students to take vocational courses. The tentative start date for two 10-week courses, Culinary Arts and Design & Visual Communications, is Oct. 11, according to Brian O’Connell, guidance counselor at Lynn Tech.

According to its website, TeachTown’s mission is to improve the academic, behavioral and adaptive functioning of students with disabilities, which may include children with autism spectrum disorder, those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and children with emotional and/or behavior disorders.

“We’re starting in kindergarten because in terms of biggest needs around social and emotional struggles that we have, it is in kindergarten,” Powers said. “It is a huge need to put in a curriculum that’s going to help teachers to teach social skills very directly. I believe we need to start in pre-K and in K. It is the foundation.”

Powers said TeachTown represents the beginnings of the district’s efforts to secure new curriculum and resources to support social emotional learning. Powers said the program was chosen, because although it’s not a special education resource, it’s been highly successful in special education classrooms.

“I’m very excited about the rollout of the beginning of a new social emotional learning curriculum,” said Jared Nicholson, a member of the School Committee. “I think it’s something that teachers have always known is important, and I think it’s going to be great to formalize that and give them the resources they need to reinforce that.”

Nicholson said the program will be helpful with skills such as decision-making, de-escalation, and relationship building and to set the stage for later grades. Ultimately, he said the goal is for a pre-K-12 program to continually build upon those skills.

O’Connell said high school students from Lynn Classical, Lynn English and Fecteau-Leary would be bused to and from their schools to Lynn Tech. He said there’s also been interest from Lynn Tech students.

Workshops, which will cap out at about 18 students each, would be held on Monday and Wednesday from 3:15-6:45 p.m. Dinner will be provided and students will receive a credit after successful completion of the 10-week program.

Students with more than six absences the quarter before applying are not eligible for the program, as it is important to have someone who shows up every time, O’Connell said. The program’s objective is to enhance a student’s potential of gainful employment after completion, according to a program summary.

O’Connell said choosing the two workshops stemmed from wondering what employable skill a student could get in a 10-week period, or in 60 hours.

With the culinary arts workshop, he said students would become ServSafe certified as a food handler after course completion, which works with any place they want to work that handles food.

“What they can do with ServSafe is they’re at the top of the pile now, if they decide that they do want to work in the culinary field,” O’Connell said. “If they do want to work anywhere where they’re handling food, they’re not only just somebody who’s putting in an application.

“They’re somebody who’s actually certified in that area in order to do that and that’s kind of where my head was at. I wanted them to walk away and say if you come here in 10 weeks, then we can actually give you something that’s going to put you ahead of the game.”

Similarly with Design & Visual Communications, O’Connell said students would be gaining a marketable employable skill, but they’re also putting themselves ahead of the game when it comes to applying to college, if they were thinking about majoring in a similar field.

With the shop, he said students would become Photoshop certified, which would allow them to freelance, and would come out of the course with a portfolio, which might be a requirement for college for students who want to go into the digital arts.

“We’re really lucky to have a technical school in the district,” Nicholson said. “I think it’s just a huge strength of the district. To be able to take advantage of that like this, I’m really excited about it.”

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