‘MHS 101’ -- For Elementary Students, a Home at the High School
High schools typically serve students in grades 9-12 who are, say, 14-18 years old.
Manchester High is different.
For years, MHS also has been home to a wide range of “adult ed” classes, most of which are held in the evening. The school also has long offered pre-K classes for children 3- and 4-years-olds -- a class that is now supported by students in the high school’s Education and Public Service Academy.
Starting last week, the high school launched yet another program, this one for elementary school students who might benefit from an alternative learning environment that provides more hands-on activities and personalized attention.
“It’s going well,” said Sandy Gondek, who has worked for years at elementary schools in both Manchester and Glastonbury, and is now overseeing a class that has been dubbed “MHS 101” (a nod to room being used at the high school).
“We have some really, really good students here,” she said, “and they like it because they get a chance to move around a bit more.”
Shelly Matfess, the district’s assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services, said MHS 101 was created to provide a different experience for select elementary students. Although there were just three students in the program at the outset, Matfess said she expects there will be eight (the maximum) in the program within two weeks.
Gondek said she has been especially pleased by how well the new program has been received by the MHS staff. Teachers and others visit regularly, working with the youngsters and developing positive relationships.
One example of many: Josh Lewis, a freshman center teacher, spends 3-4 hours in the room each week and provides instructional support. Lewis also happens to advise the high school’s fencing club, and he invited the youngsters to watch practice at 2:15 p.m. (which is after school for the MHS students but well before the ‘MHS 101’ kids ride buses back to their home elementary schools).
“It’s a joy to see these young students here at the high school and to help them be successful,” he said.
In time, EPSA students are also expected to spend time with the MHS 101 students, and Gondek says she is looking forward to establishing an arts program, introducing music therapy, and more.
“We have a structure to our day,” she said, “but we also have plenty of flexibility.”
Superintendent Matt Geary said he is pleased with the way the high school staff, the building and grounds department, and others responded when the decision was made to create the MHS 101 program.
“There’s been a lot of cooperation and collaboration, and I appreciate how flexible and supportive people have been,” Geary said. “We have to continually ask ourselves what we can do that is in the best interests of our students, all of our students. Establishing this program is an example of that.”