A year ahead in Gloucester Township schools

New Chromebooks, HVAC upgrades are on the way

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun

The Gloucester Township school district is taking steps to upgrade its HVAC systems at Glen Landing and C.W. Lewis middle schools, among other projects in the new year. 

“This one-time infusion of money from the federal government is really a blessing,” Superintendent John Bilodeau said. “The intent is that we will focus on converting both Charles Lewis and Glen Landing middle schools (to have air conditioning.)”

Bilodeau noted that because of their size and location, the middle schools are the ones typically used for professional-development events, recreational and summer-camp programs, board of education meetings and eighth grade graduation.

The superintendent hopes that in addition to the two middle schools, the district can use grant money to replace old equipment at some of its elementary schools, once it hires an engineering firm to assess what needs are the most pressing.

In other grant news, Bilodeau announced that the district has received about $300,000 to add more Chromebooks and improve other technological efforts.

“That was a grant; it’s not out of our budget, it’s not out of our taxpayer’s money,” Bilodeau emphasized. “That’s a win for our district.”

The district is in the process of piloting the Eureka Math Squared program for elementary schools and the Reveal Math Program in the middle schools. Likewise, the elementary schools are piloting Super Kids and Wit and Wisdom language arts programs and the middle schools are using StudySync.

Bilodeau explained that the pilot process is an important way for the district to gain feedback and ease into a program rather than going in and sticking with it.

As discussed in prior board meetings, he was unsure whether workshops would return in the new year; in the past, they were scheduled once a month.

“I did have some discussions with the board saying, ‘When we are meeting?’ and it’s like a dress rehearsal,” the superintendent noted. “If nothing happens from one week to the next, why are we having that first meeting? I am not opposed to workshops, but I am opposed to a workshop that (in) the next week becomes redundant.”

 While he doesn’t think all mandatory workshops will return, Bilodeau said he can see sessions held for specific topics, to address questions outside of a regular meeting.

“If a workshop is there, and the board and the public need to learn what is on that agenda to be informed about what direction the district is taking, I am all for it,” he concluded.

Linda Gilch, incumbent Anthony Marks and Kia Lipscomb were expected to be sworn in as new board of education members this month.

For the Black Horse Pike Regional School District and others, 2021 was a year of learning, with classes held during a pandemic, a shortage of bus drivers across the state and nationally, and the impact of COVID on mental health.

In the new year, Superintendent Dr. Brian Repici wants to address issues that the school district faced in 2021. 

To address a bus-driver shortage that is also happening nationwide, the district will purchase two buses and hire two of its own drivers, so it can have more local control over certain bus runs rather than the usual contracting of an outside company. The district is also incentivizing staff members who can be trained to drive the buses. 

“By doing that, we will save local money, because currently there is a shortage,” Repici explained. “The availability of buses and bus drivers are low, so the rates are high … The prices that school districts are paying now are exorbitant. We’re trying to be proactive by purchasing (hiring) our own drivers and buses.”

In an effort to reduce class size, the Lenape district is using grant money to hire additional math and language arts teachers and increasing pay for staff members who take additional classes.

Throughout the pandemic, mental health has also been a big focus as students adapt and readapt to new learning environments. In addition to its many counselors, Repici said the district wants to expand the student mentoring program. The district now has one mentor who serves all three schools.

The district has also empowered students with Student Success Coaches, a full-time position at each school that started in 2021 and will continue into the new year.

“Their role is to identify students that need some extra support and intervene,” Repici explained. “It’s a tiered intervention that we implemented for this year, and they have a pool of students they meet with to go over organizational skills. 

Capital projects funded by grant money in the new year will mainly be at Triton Regional High School, to expand the school’s counseling and nursing offices. Not funded by grants will be the new stadium-bleacher project at Triton that will provide additional locker rooms or storage space for female athletes.

“It’s in the infancy stages, but in the works,” Repici said.

The school board was expected to swear in incumbents Jennifer Storer and Jay McMullin, along with Shana Mosley, early this month.