There is no place quite like a school building in the days right before students return. To say that there is a sense of anticipation in the air doesn’t quite capture it. Teachers prepare classrooms with visions of happy and engaged learners dancing in their heads. All is possible and the feelings of those possibilities are energizing for the entire school community.
This year, SHS and the STEM Academy is buzzing with even more activity as the A Wing is prepared to be a STEM middle school for Sandwich 7th & 8th graders. At the same time, windowsills have recently been replaced and our pool is being completely renovated. And – boxes and boxes of curriculum materials from Oak Ridge, Forestdale and HT Wing teachers are being moved to the STEM Academy!
On a recent afternoon, Sandwich Town Leaders were treated to a guided tour of all the renovations at Sandwich High School. Director of Facilities Alan Hall explained the process and all the changes to a group that included Bud Dunham, Town Manager; Selectmen Ralph Vitacco, Jim Pierce, and Frank Pannorfi; Finance Committee member Michael Dwyer, and Mark Snyder; and School Committee member Nancy Crossman. Superintendent Dr. Richard Canfield, SHS & STEM Principal Dr. Ellin Booras, STEM Academy Director Gil Newton, and STEM Academy Assistant Principal Beth Hebb accompanied the Town Leaders.
It was clear to the entire group that a significant amount of work had been completed in a short time, with a constant eye on the costs being incurred. The custodial group worked alongside professional contractors to install sinks and the art rooms; to create office space for the STEM Academy Director and Administrative Assistant; to build a Health Office and Suite for School Nurse Jennie MacDonald; to create storage throughout the building; to outfit state-of-the-art Engineering and Science Labs; to paint; to clean, and to essentially create a new kind of Middle School in the A Wing of Sandwich High School.
Beyond the physical manifestations of the STEM Academy, the touring Town Leaders were treated to some time with Gil Newton as he shared the visions that have been dancing in his head and would soon be coming to life in the STEM Academy. Mr. Newton showed off some of the equipment that had been donated to the STEM Academy – including underwater cameras and robotic equipment; and it became clear that the use of the renovated pool would be a key component to the Inquiry Based and Project Based Learning that is the foundation of the STEM Academy. In the Sandwich Public Schools, the adoption of the STEM Acronym has been enhanced to mean: “Strategies That Engage Minds” as we work to increase engagement for all students.
When asked about his own feelings about the opening of The STEM Academy, Dr. Canfield talked about the importance of team in creating this new school for the Sandwich community. He is very appreciative of Alan Hall and his team in making the physical space something for the entire town to be proud of, and knows that the school itself – the curriculum, the culture, the spirit – has been generated and will be nurtured by teams of parents, SPS staff, members of the community, Town Leaders and especially – the students themselves.