GREENFIELD — After some exceptionally challenging years marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, students and administrators at Greenfield High School were eager to get a fresh start this week in a school year that brings new technology and a social-emotional learning curriculum.
“I’m very excited,” Javion Williams, 13, said as he walked out of Greenfield High School on Wednesday, marking the first day of school for kindergarten through high school students in the district. “I’m in a lot of new classes, which means new people and new friends.”
As students filed out of the building Wednesday morning, Principal Derek Morrison greeted them with familiar faces, gauging their enthusiasm for a new academic year. He said the early release on the first day was “a good way for (students) to get acclimated to their schedule…and get back into the swing of things.”
“Each year has its own challenges and things to look forward to,” she said, noting that hiring was key over the summer, with certain positions, such as instructional assistants and a Spanish teacher, yet to be filled. “We work a lot during the summer. … At some point, you think, ‘Let’s get this going, let’s get the kids.’”
One thing, in particular, the district worked on over the summer, he said, was developing a social-emotional learning curriculum, which will be followed by all Greenfield public schools during advisory periods.
Morrison, who took office in January, said he is happy to start the year under more normal circumstances.
Unlike last year, which started with a mask policy, masks will be optional this year, something that 14-year-old student Giomaris Collazo is excited about. Overall, she said that she feels good about the start of a new school year and new classes.
Regarding new technology coming to Greenfield High School, Morrison said he hopes to work with Yondr representatives in September to implement magnetic cell phone cases where student phones will be locked during the day as a way to mitigate the distractions in the classroom. However, the program did not launch on Wednesday and is expected to start in two weeks.
Superintendent Christine DeBarge, who ordered the bags, previously said the initial cost is about $16,000, which would cover students at the middle and high school levels. After that, the recurring cost is approximately $12,000 per year, depending on student enrollment. The bags are created by San Francisco-based Yondr.
“We’ve been exchanging questions and answers over the summer (with parents),” Morrison explained. “It’s not a cell phone prison. It’s like a seat belt. The kids will get used to it; we are going to get used to it as parents and teachers. … The highest priority is to reset focus. (The cell phone-related distraction) was out of the scope of being able to manage.”
Javion, who had questions about how the cell phone cases would be implemented, said he disagreed with the district’s use of the $16,000 to purchase the cases.
“It’s my property,” he said. “There are a lot of other things they could have done with that money.”
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.