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Montville - With more than a dozen recently hired teachers, a new principal, the addition of lacrosse as a varsity sport and high enrollment numbers for the district's full-day kindergarten, acting Superintendent of Schools Brian Levesque is looking forward to what he said will be a busy school year.
Levesque was appointed Thursday by the Board of Education to fill in for Superintendent Pamela Aubin, who will resign July 1, 2014, and has taken a leave of absence until that time. Levesque has been the district's assistant superintendent since July 2009.
"We're ready to go," said Levesque on Sunday evening, just hours before the 2013-14 school year started this morning. "You always get excited when you walk down the halls late in the summer and the floors are all waxed … that means the kids are coming."
Students will be welcomed to school this year by 18 new teachers. Levesque said the teachers were selected from a rich pool of applicants and he believes they will do well.
Seven of the new teachers will start at Oakdale Elementary School, where retirements, the transfer of some teachers within the district and the implementation of full-day kindergarten left several openings. The only grade at Oakdale that won't see a change in its teaching staff from last year is the fourth grade, said Levesque.
A new principal, Allison Peterson, will be welcoming students at Mohegan Elementary School today. Peterson was the assistant principal of an elementary school in Maryland for the last two years and taught elementary and middle school in Brooklyn, Mansfield and Pomfret, Conn., before taking that job. She will be taking the place of Lori Caron, who retired at the end of last school year.
For the first time, Montville's high school students will have the opportunity to participate in lacrosse as a varsity sport. It was offered as a club sport last year, and the Board of Education shifted athletic funds at its August meeting to allow the district to hire coaches for boys' and girls' lacrosse teams.
"Most of our southeastern Connecticut counterparts have lacrosse," said Levesque at that meeting. He said the sport was "very successful" as a club and that students were "definitely interested" in signing up for the sport this year.
The Board of Education eliminated funding for the girls' assistant basketball, softball and volleyball coaches and reduced funding for intramurals by slightly more than $3,000. The $14,444 provided by those changes will fund the salaries of head and assistant coaches for girls' and boy's lacrosse teams. With a paid coaching staff, lacrosse will be eligible for Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference contests in spring.
The girls' basketball, softball and volleyball programs will not be cut, said Levesque. The freshman programs for those sports, which have seen decreased enrollment, are being eliminated.
The district has also switched to full-day kindergarten for the 2013-14 school year. Four sections of kindergarten will be offered at each of the district's three elementary schools, said Levesque, while only three sections were at each school last year.
Levesque said the enrollment is around 180, much higher than expected, and he suspects that the district is pulling in children who might otherwise be sent to magnet schools. The district had noticed that local parents were choosing to send their kids to magnet schools that offered full-day kindergarten, and had hoped to attract some of those families by implementing the program.
The program was also implemented because "we were cramming a full-day curriculum into half a day," said Levesque. The district was facing increased expectations for kids after kindergarten, he said, and all the additional instruction meant that the kids were missing out on art, music, physical education, even recess.
The kindergarteners need more time to socialize and play, said Levesque, and with the full-day program, teachers won't have to rush to cover a day's worth of material.