Much of the discussion at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting centered around a pair of topics as board members heard presentations about class sizes and what the district is doing to prevent substance abuse.
Wilmington Middle School principal Christine McMenimen and Wilmington High School principal Eric Tracy each said their class sizes are lower than usual, providing ideal learning experiences for students.
“We are very fortunate to carry the numbers that we carry,” said Tracy. “I always love to brag to area principals, parents and anyone I can to highlight the things we’re doing well in the classroom. The class sizes we have allow us to do even better.”
In the middle school, the majority of classes average at less than 20 students while the high school averages 18.5 students per classroom. Tracy said the typical average has been 20 students in the past.
“If anyone has a sixth grader this year, enjoy every moment of it,” said Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton. “These are private school numbers.”
One change that may be coming down the road is a potential elimination of the district’s French program. There are currently 558 high school students enrolled in Spanish, compared to just 61 in French.
“In all honesty I don’t see it continuing down the road,” said Tracy. “We’ve looked at adding Italian and pushing it harder at the middle school. That seems to be the way the community will go with the languages.”
McMenimen and Tracy returned to speak with the board about what their schools are doing in terms of substance abuse prevention in light of recent drug issue in town among young residents.
Both schools have Students Against Destructive Decision clubs, with 60 students involved at the high school level. Tracy spoke about the Wildcat Project, and also said the Wilmington Police Department will use drug sniffing dogs to search school property.
Benton said using the K-9 units is a way to send the message to students that drugs will not be tolerated on school grounds.
“We have the right policies in place,” said Tracy. “There are penalties, but also ways to redeem yourself and take the right steps. We try to get kids the help that they need, and get families the help that they need.”
Students in the district begin learning about the dangers of drug use in fourth grade.
School Committee members stressed that the drug issue is not unique to Wilmington, but it is one that needs to continue to be addressed in their schools.
“Kids are being exposed younger and younger, and when they’re out and about they have to be able to do the right thing,” said McMenimen. “It’s easy to say, but difficult to do.”