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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Pownal Elementary: A Source of Pride

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Pownal Elementary School posts its' upcoming activities.
Pownal, Vt. - The Pownal Elementary School was a hub of learning on Feb. 13. The school's large, well-stocked library hosted a group of students who were listening attentively to librarian Becky Gijanto. Classroom teachers were involved in classroom lessons. A main corridor- warm and inviting with its' golden-yellow painted walls - was filled with student art work and displays.

"This is a good school and we have good kids," said Gijanto.

Winter Carnival

Activities a-plenty are offered to the school's students. A March 2 "Winter Carnival" is planned for grade 4, grade 5, and grade 6 students, and the events include a choice of ice-skating at the Veteran's Memorial skating rink in North Adams or skiing at Willard Mountain in Easton, N.Y.. There is no charge for either activity, and there are alternative events being planned for students who aren't big on skiing or ice-skating.

The Parent-Teacher Group has scheduled a March 3 "Movie Night;" in the event of a snow day, the movie will be shown on March 10.

Student Events


A three-dimensional mural and a sixth-grade mask project are among the art on display at the Pownal school.
Theater has its' place at the rural school; numerous students are crafting props, scenery, and other items needed for an April 7 and April 8 presentation of "The Magical Land of Oz." The play will be hosted at the school gymnasium; the performances begin at 7 p.m..

Community service is a part of student life at Pownal school. Student Council members are planning a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser called "Pennies for Patients," and the three-week event is slated to start soon after the upcoming February vacation ends and classes resume.

An after-school program is very popular with students, who are able to participate in numerous activities.

The Washer and Dryer

A washing machine and a clothes dryer are set up inside the school and both get plenty of use. Changes of clothing are also kept on school property, and there is a showering facility on the premises.

But contrary to some beliefs, "messy" students are not the prime focus of the equipment or the spare clothing.

"I remember once when my son got a bloody nose at school," said Gijanto. "He came home in different clothes because there was something for him to change into and I was glad that he didn't have to sit around in bloody clothes all day."

Outdoor recess at a New England school can result in children who get wet, muddy, or snowy while playing, and sometimes, mud or dampness can seep through even the heaviest of outerwear and impact student clothing, said Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Wesley Knapp. The Pownal Elementary School is included in the supervisory union.

"Last week, there was child who was outside playing and down he went into the mud," said Knapp. "He was just soaking wet; we threw the clothes into the washer and dryer and gave him something else to wear. We gave the family a call and they thanked us for helping out."

During a recent emergency evacuation that affected two Pownal mobile home communities, the school-based equipment was a blessing for many of those impacted, Knapp said.

"During the emergency, the school laundry facility was quite appreciated," he said, and noted that the Pownal school is not the only school with an on-premises washer and dryer.

The school was recently subjected to some publicity because, according to 2004-05 data made available from the state Department of Education, 67 percent of the students received either free or reduced lunch benefits.

A first-grade art project focused on texture and shape is on display at the Pownal Elementary School.


During the same time period, 46 percent of Bennington Elementary school students received the benefits, as did 65 percent of Catamount Elementary School students and 59 percent of Molly Stark elementary school students. All four schools are part of the supervisory union.

A Closer Look at "Free Lunch" Benefits

The Pownal lunch benefit percentage indicated that "67 percent of the students live in poverty," according to a local newspaper article.

That may or may not be the case; when one examines a free/reduced lunch benefit income guideline chart made available with benefit application forms, one finds the following: a family of three earning up to $29,767 yearly, $2,481 monthly, or $573 weekly may be considered eligible for either free or reduced cost school lunches.

In other words, a single mother of two children, with at least one child enrolled at a Vermont public school, could qualify for a free or reduced cost lunch benefit while working 40 hours a week at an hourly wage of $13 per hour.

A family of four may earn up to $35,798 per year and remain eligible for the benefit, while a family of six may retain eligibility with yearly earnings of up to $47,860, according to income guideline information.

[Vermont's minimum wage raised from $7 per hour to $7.25 per hour on Jan. 1, except for "tipped employees" such as waitresses; the state minimum wage for a "tipped employee" is $3.65 per hour. However, if the tipped employee hourly wage coupled with actual tips received during a specific work shift do not equal the $7.25 minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.]

And the school's students are academically astute learners who have helped the school meet its' targets for progress under state and federal requirements yearly since accountability documentation began in 2002.

"This school does quite well," said Knapp.

For example, the most recent available Vermont Assessment Summary released by the Vermont Department of Education indicates that of the 35 second-grade students who participated with a "Developmental Reading Assessment", 37 percent achieved a state standard and 34 percent exceeded the standard, meaning that 71 percent of those participating ranked as meeting or exceeding the standard.

Additionally, 20 percent of the students met a "nearly" meeting the standard level, and three percent were assessed as "below" the standard.

And at the fifth-grade level, of 20 female students who participated with a Science Assessment, "0 percent" were assessed at falling under the standard. The combined standard or above category was met by 40 percent of the female students and 60 percent of the females reached the "nearly" meeting the standard level. The results were mimicked by the fifth-grade male students; "0 percent" fell below the standard, 32 percent of the male students met or exceeded the standard, and 68 percent "nearly" met the standard.

In grade 4, the assessment showed that 49 percent of the students met or exceeded the standard for math problem-solving, while "0 percent" showed "little progress." The assessment indicated that "0 percent" showed "little progress" with understanding math concepts, 49 percent "nearly" met the standard, and 35 percent met or exceeded the standard.

And the fourth grade assessment for math skills indicated that 81 percent of the participating students met or exceeded that standard.

"We have so much going on here and this is a wonderful school," said Gijanto. "There was a substitute [teacher] here recently and she thought that the school was so nice and the kids were so nice. She said that she'd like to come back here. That's what I want people to know about Pownal school. It's a nice school with really nice kids."

Additional information about Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union schools may be acquired at a www.state.vt.us/educ/ Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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