EASTHAMPTON — At its Jan. 23 meeting, the Easthampton School Committee listened to presentations on the school improvement plans for both Mountain View School and Easthampton High School. The plans are far-reaching and cover many areas of the schools.

At Mountain View School, among other things, staff will work on increasing MCAS scores, more mental health awareness and programs, providing tiered interventions for students, increasing family engagement and professional development for planned literacy instruction.

Maureen Binienda, interim superintendent, explained that teachers and staff are reviewing MCAS data from the spring and will use that to create student-specific interventions for students who need them.

Head of School for Mountain View School Jill Pasquini-Torchia explained that teachers will use the data from additional assessments to identify students who may need tiered forms of intervention. The school will also be using a mental health grant to screen and identify students in need of mental health support. Binienda spoke of the increased need for this since the coronavirus pandemic.

Easthampton High School’s school improvement plan focuses on increasing math MCAS scores, decreasing chronic absenteeism, establishing and implementing a two-year professional inquiry plan for teachers and building experiences that demonstrate diverse student-centered instructional practices.

The state defines chronic absenteeism as a student who misses more than 10%, or 18 days, of classes during the school year. At the high school, this would mean nine days for semester classes. William Evans, principal of Easthampton High School, explained that there are multiple interventions currently in place to support students who struggle with attendance from sending letters home to conversations with students to find out why they don’t come to school.

“It really is individual,” said Evans. “The spectrum of reasons why students don’t come to school is pretty broad.”

He specifically noted that many students have an issue with the stamina required to stay at school all day after the pandemic and an “explosion of mental health issues in the last 13 years.”

Ben Hersey, a School Committee member, also noted that this problem is not unique to Easthampton and is a national problem that almost all schools are facing.

In other actions, the committee received a finance and business update from Nick Bernier, the district’s business manager. He noted that the fiscal year 2024 budget is on track and being monitored for any adjustments that may need to be made. The FY25 budget season has started, with almost all principals and directors having sent in their budget requests for next year. That process will continue in the coming months.

Tina Lesniak
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