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Monthly Community Service Themes Await Westborough's Mill Pond School

The school begins its 11th year.

Westborough's will spend its 11th year with monthly community service project themes, Principal Reene Hatherley says.

Mill Pond Parent Group Co-Presidents Jennie Bogaert and Karen Henderson will facilitate the effort, which connects with the school's emphasis on character education.

Mill Pond was named a National School of Character in 2010, an honor the school will hold for five years, Hatherley says.

"You're educating the whole child. That means educating their character as well," Hatherley says.

"I've always been a big believer if you have a strong school culture where people care about each other, good things happen. Kids learn because they feel safe and they want to be here."

The Westborough public schools' first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 29. Friday, Aug. 31 is an early release day for students.

Mill Pond officials had hoped to celebrate the school's 10th year at the end of the last school year, but there were lots of things happening then, Hatherley says.

The monthly community service theme will have Mill Pond "doing some sort of community service connected project in the school," for this year, she says.

Students will be encouraged, but not required, to participate in the projects, which will include Mill Pond's annual food drive, Hatherley says.

One change at Mill Pond this fall involves the school's schedule.

The eight blocks of 43 minutes each schedule has been adjusted, with daily math lessons increased to just over an hour, and reading and language periods changed to 90-minute blocks, Hatherley says.

"It isn't that different, the way we've been teaching it. It's just that by adjusting the blocks of time, it is going to make things seem a little bit different for the teachers and for the kids. We think it's going to be a good change. It's going to give teachers time to get more done, really dig in deep, especially in the area of math," she says.

"It isn't total change of schedule. Kids are still going to have the same time for lunch and recess. They're still going to have their specials: their gym class, their music, art."

Students might not have science and social studies each day, Hatherley says.

"They might have science every day for a double-block of time. Then, maybe the next week, they'll have social studies. The teachers are going to adjust the way they're instructing," she says.

The state's Common Core standards are driving the changes, Hatherley says.

"I don't think this is that big of a change," she says.

"I think our teachers have been addressing the teaching of science and social studies all along."

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