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As part of ongoing efforts to enhance the extended day program, John Barry School in Meriden repaved a portion of its playground over the summer. The project will coincide with lessons in the extended day program. | Moly Callahan/Record-Journal

Meriden schools enhance extended day programming

MERIDEN — Teachers and administrators at John Barry School have been working over the summer to reorganize the school’s extended-day program in hopes of a smoother year. A small courtyard repaved with blue and green tennis court-type material marks the most visible of the changes.

Assistant School Superintendent Michael Grove said the school applied to bond $60,000 for a playground fashioned after Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s works, which include “The Little Mermaid.”

“We’re really excited about that,” said John Barry Principal Elsie Torres-Brown said, adding that the playground comes complete with interactive lessons for teachers.

“Kids can learn about something in class, and then go outside and it’ll be reinforced on the playground,” Grove said.

Extended day is viewed by some education officials as a way for urban schools to close the achievement gap by providing additional programs and activities.

In Connecticut, East Hartford and New London also have extended-day programs. This will be the third year for the program in Meriden, where John Barry and Casimir Pulaski students attend an extra 100 minutes per day. Roger Sherman students will also begin attending for an extended day in the coming school year.

The money for the playground is part of a state Department of Education School Improvement Grant worth a possible $1.621 million, including $500,000 in bond requests. Support staff at the school, such as a math coach, teacher development specialist, and two support staff members have also been hired for the coming school year using the grant.

“We have people in place now to deal with issues as they arise,” said Daniel Crispino, the school system’s facilitator for extended-day programs. He listed discipline and disinterest as two of the biggest concerns for teachers last school year.

“We have smaller class sizes, and we have more certified teachers on board teaching things that they’re excited to teach,” Crispino said.

Torres-Brown added that this year, 17 certified teachers will run enrichment programming at the school, up from just seven teachers last school year.

The principal attributed the increased “buy-in” to new teachers coming into the school.

“John Barry has the highest percentage of new staff than any other building,” Grove said.

The school is planning monthly meetings with parent representatives, weekly full-staff meetings, and more events for parents.

The first is scheduled for Aug. 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the school, to let parents know about changes in extended day programs, Torres-Brown said.

“The whole idea is more organization,” Grove said. “As we go through, we refine the process, and we’re just getting better at it.” (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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