Early Childhood Center students get suprise visit

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For Johnston’s smallest students, the school year is starting off in a big way.

On Tuesday, just three days into their academic careers, the kindergarteners at the Early Childhood Center were granted a special visit by Governor Gina Raimondo. The governor was on hand to pass out Google Chromebooks, a laptop computer, for each of the students to use.

Before passing out the devices, Raimondo visited Ms. Nicole Carroll’s classroom, where she treated the children by reading Clark the Shark. The picture book, which is typically read aloud and focuses on rhythm and rhyme, focuses on Clark’s enthusiasm for school where he is the only shark student and has difficulty fitting in. Clark’s teacher gives him advice to “stay cool,” which he uses to create rhymes when he needs to behave. The book is used as an icebreaker to help students acclimate to their new school environment.

Raimondo then began the process of handing out Chromebooks. The district has focused on Johnston’s kindergarteners and their teachers, who are now utilizing computers and electronic devices to learn and teach students to be better prepared digital citizens. The Early Childhood Center has implemented one-on-one electronic devices with their students beginning in 2016 and has seen phenomenal results thus far.

“It’s always nice to shed a positive light on the great stuff that’s going on in our district. I’m very happy to have the governor here today,” said Early Childhood Center principal Julie-anne Zarrella. “It’s exciting. I’m glad that she can see it in action and be a part of it. I expect even more from the program this year. When you roll something out it takes time to get in the groove. But I’m very confident with the staff I have here. It’s definitely a team effort and everyone is hardworking and they all have the best interests of the kids at heart.”

Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo Jr. was also eager to highlight the technological changes the schools have experienced during the governor’s and Mayor Joseph Polisena’s visit.

“It was exciting to host the governor and mayor this morning. The kids were very excited about getting their Chromebooks,” said DiLullo. “It’s a big initiative for us.”

The recent state budget impasse uncertainty in July called state aid going to the town’s schools into question. Nearly $1 million in funding was at risk of being lost if the budget was not passed. The district had planned on expanding their one-to-one computer program at the elementary schools for the upcoming year, and those plans were temporarily placed on hold until the impasse was rectified.

“We were concerned that we weren’t going to be able to get the one-to-one program off the ground this year because of the budget delay. Fortunately, that was resolved and we are able to move forward with the program not only at the Early Childhood Center but at the elementary level,” said DiLullo. “That’s big for us, the whole personalized learning initiative, and that’s how kids learn now. We’re meeting them at their level; they’re excited and engaged when they’re on the computers. We’re looking forward to another great year.”

As if planning for a new class filled with eager kindergarteners wasn’t enough, kindergarten teacher Nichole Carroll had the added responsibility of hosting the governor in her class. She was beyond pleased at how well her students performed during the visit.

“I’m excited, this is the first time they are getting their computers and they are doing great. It’s great for these children to have these computers, by the middle of the year the students will become so independent,” said Carroll. “It’s a great tool for the kids to have.”

Following her visit with the class, Raimondo took a complete tour of the Early Childhood center.

“You have a great facility, great teachers, and engaged students,” said the governor to the mayor, superintendent and Principal Zarrella. “I wish them success this year.”

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