New Williamstown Elementary School delights students, staff

“Our mission is to inspire in all students a love of learning and challenge them to grow in heart and mind.” A bright banner emblazoned with these words hangs above the entrance to the new Williamstown Elementary School. Now, one year after the completion of the new facility, the school is fully equipped to provide a complete education to its students.

“The biggest factor is that it is new,” said Principal David Rempell when asked about key improvements to the school. The original facility featured three buildings, all of which were between 50 to 100 years old and had begun to show signs of age. While the overall area of the school has not been increased, the new building makes more efficient use of space, allowing all classrooms to be significantly larger than in the earlier building. The space, according to Rempell, “leads to a more healthy and environmentally healthy culture of the school.”

The architects of the school specifically took into consideration environmentally friendly designs such as energy efficient lighting and cooling systems. “I personally feel very proud that we are recycling,” said Carolyn Agostini, a Title 1 reading instructor. “Recycling is just one of many measures taken to instill in students a respect for the environment.”

A tour of the building reveals the improvements that come with a new facility. In addition to the new physical structure, provisions for new equipment and teaching supplements were included in the overall cost. Therefore, every classroom is equipped with brand new computers, TV monitors and other items such as interactive maps and globes.

“The globes are great,” Agostini said. “The other day, the kids were trying to actually find the Northwest Passage on our globe, which we didn’t have before.”

Two years ago, school officials investigated the cost of rebuilding the school and found that it would cost less over the next 10 years to build a new school then to continue to repair the existing building. The cost of the project was covered jointly by the state of Massachusetts and the College. “There are approximately 21 students,” Rempell said, “at the elementary school who have a connection to staff at the College. The College therefore has a vested interest in the well-being of the school.” Through various grants to the public schools, the College can establish a connection with the elementary school and the community and also attract professors with children to come and live in Williamstown.

The bond between Williams College and the Williamstown Elementary School extends to non-financial matters as well. “One of the major strengths of this school is its connection to Williams College,” Rempell said. Through programs such as America Reads, America Counts and the Hughes Science Grant, students at the College interact with and teach the young students at the elementary school.

“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Barry Fulton ’05, one such volunteer. “I think that it’s a really good program that has enabled me to work with more than one child at a time.” The grant allows students such as Fulton, who intend on pursuing education as a career, to gain experience working in a classroom setting.

The cooperation also involves professors at the College who have opened up their laboratories to organize demonstrations for students. Pre-med students have arranged workshops for elementary students to learn about health-care professions. Culturally as well, dance groups who come to Williams to perform occasionally stop by the elementary school as well.

Last year, the major goal for the year was to shift seamlessly into the new building. Now that that has been successfully achieved, the faculty and administration can look towards achieving new goals such as adapting a consistent, coordinated and enriched curriculum, integrating and expanding the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning, improving collaboration and coordination between Special Education and regular education and building a school community that fosters mutual respect.