Mohawk Trail Regional School garners $375K Mass IDEAS grant

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School. Staff file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/5/2020 2:12:15 PM
Modified: 6/5/2020 2:12:03 PM

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail Regional School has been awarded a $375,000 state grant to further progress on its “whole-school redesign.”

The “whole-school redesign” process began last year with the Mass IDEAS (Innovating Design in Education for All Students) Planning Grant, which the school used to begin its effort to address a number of ongoing issues, according to Principal Marisa Mendonsa. Goals include reducing chronic absence, the number of students who don’t graduate on time and dropout rates.

With that $150,000 grant, Mohawk Trail Regional School started planning for and rolling out co-taught classes, blended subjects such as bioethics and integrated art-English, and internship and work-study programs, according to a press release from the school.

“I think what we’ve done this past year was to thoughtfully consider the ways students would feel more engaged and more supported,” Mendonsa said. “And therefore, our hope is that this will translate to them wanting to be in school … and doing everything they need to do to graduate on time.”

As recipients of the planning grant, the school was eligible to apply for the Mass IDEAS Implementation Grant as well, Mendonsa explained. The school was one of three in Massachusetts selected to receive one.

Funding from the $375,000 implementation grant will allow the school to continue its work investing in its teachers and the community, she said.

“Our teachers are the frontline with working with our students,” she said. “We want to support them in making the shifts. We want to allow them to take risks in the classroom, and we want them to be prepared to tackle those risks.”

The grant will help fund professional development for teachers in areas of student engagement, co-teaching and blending subjects, as well as allow the school to offer better social-emotional support for students, Mendonsa said. It also provides funding to hire an additional college and career counselor.

“We know that not all of our students are headed off to college, and that is OK,” she said. “We also want to make sure we have a counselor that can support students as they transition into career.”

The grant will also help further the school’s efforts to provide internships to students, and will support technology upgrades.

Mendonsa said the “whole-school redesign” follows what the school has named the “Trailblazer Model,” which encourages students to explore their opportunities.

“We know a lot of schools are shifting to Pathways,” she said, referencing a program that is designed to provide students with coursework that prepares them for a specific field or career. “We’re a small school. … For us, we’re still really committed to students being able to do lots of different things to find their niche eventually, not to be pigeon-holed into a single pathway.”

The Trailblazer Model, Mendonsa said, also emphasizes providing students with 21st-century skills, such as working collaboratively, problem-solving and breaking down “silos” that separate different disciplines of learning.

“We’re really trying to get away from traditional high school courses and really be thinking about how we can view school differently,” she explained.

Art teacher Rachel Silverman noted the importance of providing opportunities that help to produce well-rounded students.

“We are transforming our school to support each student to learn with passionate educators, connect to their community through projects and fieldwork, and benefit from guidance and mentoring that will prepare students to pursue their personal goals,” Silverman, a Mass IDEAS team member, said in a statement. “I am excited to build a school that can reflect and contribute to the beauty, talents, traditions and enterprises that sustain our region.”

This is the first round of implementation grants provided by Mass IDEAS. The other two grant recipients in Massachusetts are Barnstable Intermediate School in Hyannis and Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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