About Middle School Redesign
Middle school students deserve experiences, tailored to their developmental stage, as they progress from elementary school towards high school. We are enhancing the middle school experience for all middle school students by offering more hands-on learning and enrichment programming, designed to strengthen their academic and social-emotional skills and engage them more deeply in school. Middle school students have more access to extracurricular sports, arts, and music than before, although more work needs to be done.
We have also introduced new middle school models. In fall 2018, we opened two new middle school options by co-locating with existing schools. Holyoke STEM Academy was a theme selected due to community interest and alignment to the high school academies, and Veritas Prep Holyoke is modeled after a top-performing school in Springfield. And as of SY 19-20, our dual language program is also in middle school! Meanwhile, we continue to convert more of our PreK-8 buildings to elementary schools to open more space and specialized learning opportunities for younger students. With many different models of middle school in place, we have convened a middle grades collaborative study team to make recommendations on our vision and implications for a strong middle school for all students.
With many different models of middle school in place, in 2021, a 16-member middle grades collaborative study team made recommendations on how to strengthen the middle school experience for all students. Watch the School Committee presentation to learn more. Key highlights:
- Ensure readiness for MassCore (a state-recommended program of study intended to align high school coursework with college and workforce expectations) through high quality curriculum and instruction.
- Implement an advisory period to support this development and offer opportunities for personal and career exploration.
- Provide exposure to enrichment opportunities and career pathways within core curriculum and advisory.
- Develop and implement a plan for middle schools now that works with/without a new building.
- Ensure enough students per grade/school to allow for class and programming variety.
- Offer continuity of programming from elementary to middle school.
- Utilize previous MS building work as a starting point in order to save time and money on the new project.
The Committee did not have a conclusive recommendation on the recommended grade span for middle school (grades 5-8 or grades 6-8). Superintendent Soto will work with the School Committee to study this issue further through soliciting more input and discussions. You can also share your feedback on the presentation by filling out this survey.
Proposed Middle School Building
We began the eligibility period for a new middle school building on August 2nd! As part of this process, Mayor Murphy appointed a School Building Committee. Read the 9-16-21 press release. There are so many reasons we are excited about the potential of a new middle school building in Holyoke. A new building will allow us to:
- Continue moving towards a model of distinct elementary and middle schools, so that students can have a customized learning experience for their age level
- Continue to expand unique programs, such as the dual language program
- Plan for structural and financial sustainability
- Update our portfolio of schools so that more students have access to buildings conducive for learning in the 21st century
The School Building Committees are scheduled on Thursdays at 6 p.m. Due to the pandemic, they are currently offered virtually on zoom webinar or on Channel 15. The next meetings will be:
- November 4
- December 2
Members of the public wishing to submit public comments can email Erin Linville, email@example.com, no later than 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting. To request previous meeting minutes, email Erin Linville.
There are also numerous working groups (Academics/Extracurriculars, Building Design, Communications, Finance) to support the School Building Committee. If you are interested in joining a working group to share your expertise and opinions, please contact Mayor Murphy or Erin Linville.
History of Proposed Middle School Building
In November 2019, the citizens of Holyoke considered a ballot question to fund two new middle school buildings. Although the ballot question was not passed, many Holyoke residents are supportive of a new middle school building, yet wanted to explore other funding sources. Accordingly, in May 2020, the City Council submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to continue to explore the construction of one new middle school building as we work together to realize the educational vision of HPS.
After the City’s analysis demonstrated that the City can afford one new middle school building, the City Councilors voted unanimously on April 6, 2021, in favor of a resolution that the Holyoke City Council endorses the plan to apply to the MSBA to build one middle school for 550 students. With this support, the MSBA accepted Holyoke’s SOI for a new school building and our Eligibility Period has begun.
School Building Committee Membership (as of 10/21/21)
Voting School Building Committee Members
*Please note, the MSBA requires that the School Building Committee include certain designations. They are included in parentheses behind the members’ name and employment.
- Terence Murphy*, Mayor of the City of Holyoke. (Local Chief Executive, Representative of office authorized by law to construct school buildings, Local budget official or member of local finance Committee)
- Anthony Soto*, Receiver/Superintendent (Superintendent of Schools.)
- Whitney Anderson+, Facilities Administrator (Local official responsible for building maintenance)
- Lori Belanger, Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Holyoke (SBC member who is MCPPO certified)
- Erin Brunelle*+, School Committee Member, Realtor (School Committee Member)
- Sal Canata+, Holyoke STEM Principal (School principal)
- Jackie Glasheen*+, Executive Director of School Leadership (Member knowledgeable in educational mission and function of facility)
- Reina Lorenzi*+, Senior Auditor (Member of the community with finance/accounting experience)
- Mark Lubold*+, General Manager (Member of the community with construction experience)
- J. Efrain Martinez+, Retired School Leader and Teacher (Member knowledgeable in educational mission and function of facility, Member of the community with school construction experience)
- Jessica Perella+, Parent and UMass Student (Member of the community with community development experience)
- Will Puello*, Police Officer in the Military (Member of the community with community development experience)
- Peter Tallman*+, City Councilor, Vice Chair of the Finance Committee, Retired Letter Carrier (Local budget official or member of local finance Committee)
- David Yos+, Tax Preparer (Member of the community with finance/accounting experience)