By Matthew Sockol
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – Teachers and administrators in the Freehold Township K-8 School District have welcomed 3,800 children back to school for the 2016-17 school year.
According to administrators, enrollment for the new year stands at 3,800 pupils, which is essentially the same as the 3,855 pupils who were enrolled in 2015-16.
“We are working hard on our district vision toward personalizing learning for every student in the district,” said Ali Ryan, the pre-kindergarten through fifth grade information and technology coordinator.
The new school year in Freehold Township features an emphasis on technology.
An ongoing project in the district for the 2016-17 school year is the STEAM 212 initiative (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), which will transform the media centers at the Applegate, Catena, Donovan, Errickson and West Freehold elementary schools and at the Barkalow and Eisenhower middle schools into STEAM center maker spaces.
Components of the STEAM centers will include 3D printers, 3D scanners, modern work spaces, multimedia tools, drafting and design stations, creation software and community partnerships.
“Those spaces include green screen rooms for filming, robots, Lego centers, spaces to create and build, and a collaborative work station. The collaborative work station includes flat screen TVs that students can hook up a Chromebook computer to in order to share and collaborate using Google Apps,” Ryan said.
Donations for the STEAM 212 initiative have been provided by the Freehold Township Education Foundation, which provides private funds for programs and initiatives in the district.
According to the foundation, the goal of the initiative is to afford students the opportunity to learn through real-life applications in the areas of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, and to engage students in problem solving and collaboration through hands-on activities, experiments and projects.
The total amount of funds needed for the initiative is $212,000. As of July 5, the foundation had raised almost $109,000, according to foundation Chairwoman Denise Bartone. The foundation said it intends to fully fund the seven STEAM centers by the end of 2016.
A new program for the 2016-17 school year will provide a Chromebook laptop computer to each second grade pupil. A Chromebook computer is already provided to each pupil in grades three through eight.
A Chromebook laptop computer will also be provided to nearly every pupil in kindergarten and first grade, according to Ryan.
According to district administrators, the computers serve as a replacement for textbooks, which the district no longer has.
To acquire additional technology equipment for the 2016-17 school year, the Board of Education accepted checks in the amount of $29,019 and $2,980 from the West Freehold School PTO on Aug. 30.
Board President Christopher Marion and board members Michael Amoroso, Daniel DiBlasio, Kay Poklemba-Holtz, Edward Hudak, Jennifer Patten and Staci Triandafellos voted to accept the checks for the technology equipment. Board Vice President Jason Levy and board member Michelle Lambert were absent.