LYNNFIELD — When 2,200 town students return to classes next Wednesday, social emotional learning will be the classroom focus even as reading, writing and arithmetic lessons begin.
School Superintendent Jane Tremblay and her 300 coworkers will focus on building relationships with students that extend beyond understanding their academic skills.
“Parents can expect a lot of activities in the first few weeks around getting to know students in order to teach them in the best way possible,” Tremblay said.
Social emotional learning isn’t a concept exclusive to Lynnfield. Swampscott is among area communities pushing efforts to understand the pressures and challenges students face when they come to school every morning.
Tremblay said social emotional learning translates into balancing academics and other learning with building a relationship with young people with the goal of helping them “to feel emotionally and psychologically safe to do their best.”
She said the extra effort involved in combining social emotional learning with more traditional academics lays a firm bedrock for building an education. Students are able, she said, to focus more clearly on the accomplishments they want to achieve in school and discuss their needs, worries and problems more clearly.
“What we’ve learned over the years is that if we can connect with kids early in their school career, we can get ahead of the challenges they may face,” she said.
The town’s superintendent for six years and an educator since 1982, Tremblay said Lynnfield is “not a cookie-cutter community.” The student population is showing greater diversity, she said, and schools are prepared to make all students feel included in the student population by hiring an English Language Learner teacher.
Students returning to school and parents sending them off to a new academic year will find former Huckleberry School first grade teacher and principal’s assistant Melissa Wyland serving as the school’s interim principal.
Ten-year principal Brian Bemiss took a principal’s job in Walpole in order to be closer to his family.
“He has triplets who are now 8,” said Tremblay.
She called Wyland’s elevation to interim principal “a natural progression” for the educator and said a permanent principal for Huckleberry will be in place by next April.
Other changes include a shift from a two-semester to three-semester system at the middle school. Tremblay said the change reflects school administrator’s concerns about the amount of time students and teachers were required to spend during the academic year’s fourth quarter on state comprehensive state preparation and test taking.
Reorganizing into a trimester system allows the third semester to be devoted to a more even balance of academics and testing.
“It will offer more time to teach the curriculum,” Tremblay said.
The high school’s COMPASS program will be expanded during the next school year. The program includes extracurricular learning for students and a program led by seniors to acclimate freshmen into the school.
The countdown to the first day of school in a new school year never gets old for Tremblay.
“There is always an anticipatory excitement. It’s almost indescribable unless you are an educator,” she said.