Thursday, February 15, 2018

Update on Grade Reconfiguration

Members of the Community:

Below, please see the content of a memo that was prepared for the February 12, 2018 School Committee meeting regarding the grade reconfiguration transition that will happen in the district in 2019.  We are sharing this memo to provide as many answers as we have at this point in time, and to solicit feedback from the community about what we have done to date.

To provide input, we encourage you to use the following resources:

Transition 2019 website:
Click on the "Transition 2019" button on the district's main website at, or go to the page directly at

For general comments/questions on the 2019 grade reconfiguration:

For comments/questions on redistricting:

Thank you,
Tim Piwowar, Superintendent


To:                 Billerica School Committee
From:            Tim Piwowar, Superintendent of Schools
Date:              February 9, 2018
Re:                 Update on Grade Reconfiguration                         

In fall 2019, there will be a significant transition in the district that includes the building of a new high school, grade level reconfiguration (K-4, 5-7, 8-12), and redrawing of attendance lines (redistricting). There are several teams that are working on different components of this transition, including the 5/6 Transition Team, 8/9 Transition Team, Staffing Team, Operations/Resources Team, Redistricting Team, and the Steering Committee, who acts as the umbrella that coordinates the work between all of the transition teams.

The teams that are responsible for making educational programmatic recommendations for the 5-7 middle schools and the 8-12 high school are the 5/6 and 8/9 Transition Teams. Consisting of teachers and administrators, these teams have been working to define what the reconfigured middle and high schools will look like for students, with a focus on the transition for students in grades 5 and 8.

At this time, each of the teams have already determined some of the programming, which is outlined below. This list presents a general picture of what the middle and high schools will look like. As the teams continue to talk through the programming, this list will continue to be fleshed out with more detail.

5 – 7 Middle School
·         Each school will be a unified 5-7 middle school, not a separate 5th grade school and 6th/7th grade school within the same building.
·         Grade 5 will consist of a team structure with teachers teaching in 2 content areas.
o   The team structure includes common planning/duty/meeting time
·         Students will have the opportunity for movement breaks built into every schedule for each grade level.
·         Students will have additional opportunities for physical education classes in their weekly schedule. (This will be an increase of physical education classes for grade 5 students.)
·         The middle school will be one school with one bell schedule. (Grade 5 will not operate on a separate bell schedule.)
·         Grade 5 curriculum content and standards will not change.
·         Professional development will be provided to Grade 5 teachers about teaching within a middle school bell schedule.
·         Grade 5 classrooms will be clustered in one common location in the building.
·         More choice will be incorporated into the Unified Arts for 7th grade.
·         Unified Arts teachers may have the opportunity to make recommendations for programming.
·         Students will be taught the same foundational content and skills that have always been offered.
·         Grade 7 students will have the opportunity to take Industrial Arts with an eye towards engineering.
·         Teachers will have opportunities to take an interdisciplinary approach to instruction.

8 – 12 High School
·         The high school will be one unified school, not two separate schools for Grade 8 and high school.
·         There will be one unified bell schedule.
·         All teachers will teach five classes.
·         The current BMHS schedule structure will remain intact:
o   All 8 classes meet on Mondays for 45 minutes.
o   All classes meet either on Tue/Thu or Wed/Fri for 85 minutes.
o   Teachers teach 2 or 3 classes each day and have a prep each day.
·         Grade 8 teachers and students will be part of the overall HS community.
·         Report cards are competency-based and are issued on quarters.
·         Common planning time will be built in for Grade 8 teachers, either departmentally or interdepartmentally.
·         Grade 8 curriculum content and standards will not change.
·         Grade 8 teachers will teach 8th grade.
·         Grade 8 students will be able to participate in all BMHS student activities, both in-school and extracurricular.
·         Professional development will be provided to Grade 8 teachers about teaching the longer (85 minute) block.
·         No more than 14 teachers will share a teachers’ planning room.
·         Teachers will share classrooms. The goal is that three teachers will share two classrooms, within the same content area.
·         Grade 8 classroom teachers will be clustered together and will share the top floor with Grade 9 teachers.

Both teams will continue their work of developing the programming for the middle and high schools. Below are a few of the questions that are emerging at this time that the teams still need to address. This does not encompass everything that the teams will need to discuss; however, it gives an idea of the questions that are coming up at this time, with the understanding that teams will continue to address additional questions along the way.

Some of what we still need to address:

Grade 5:
·         What will Humanities and STEM look like in middle school?
·         What do Grade 5 report cards look like?
·         What will the need for specialists be at each grade level?

Grade 8:
·         Does Grade 8 have a team structure?
·         What will LAB/Connections look like?

Monday, February 12, 2018

BMHS Construction Update - February 12, 2018

We are excited to bring back the regular construction updates about the high school project - please see updated information about our progress below!

Academic Wing

  • Structural steel and concrete slab flatwork is complete
  • Exterior sheathing and air vapor barrier is complete throughout all classroom wings
  • Exterior brick masonry is 98% complete at two of the three classroom wings
  • Classroom window frames and glazing are underway
  • Curtainwall window framing and glazing is ongoing throughout the academic courtyards and along the main academic corridor looking into the future quad
  • Roofing is mostly complete with only final detailing remaining
  • Egress stairs are in place and railings are underway
  • Interior framing is complete in the classroom wings and mostly complete towards the spine
  • Electrical in-wall and above-ceiling rough installations are nearly complete in the classroom wings
  • Drywall installation is underway as in-wall rough and inspections are completed
  • Door frames are underway throughout, and nearly complete in the academic wings
  • Mechanical, Plumbing, Fire Protection, and Sprinkler system installations are underway
  • Tel/Data wiring is underway
  • Spray fireproofing patching and detail work underway as other trades make attachments to structure
  • The masonry elevator shaft is complete, and the elevator installation is anticipated to begin in March
  • Painting is priming and first-coat complete in classrooms
Civic Wing
  • Structural steel framing and decking is complete
  • Laminated wood beam structures are complete
  • Concrete slab on grade and elevated decks are complete except at the stage, auditorium, balcony, track, and gym areas
  • Exterior sheathing, damproofing, and air vapor barrier installations are underway
  • Roofing is approximately half complete, and carpenter blocking around skylights at gym and upper roofs is underway
  • Spray-on fireproofing is mostly complete at sectors south of the commons, gym, and auditroium
  • Exterior metal panels are onsite and preparations for installations are underway starting at the gym area
  • Interior masonry block partitions at the gym and auditorium are commencing
  • Elevator shaft masonry block is underway

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Billerica School Committee Neighborhood Meeting: January 29, 7pm, Marshall MS Library

The Billerica School Committee will be holding a Neighborhood Meeting to hold open discussion with the public on Monday, January 29, at 7:00pm in the Marshall Middle School library.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Elementary Study of Special Education/General Education

The Billerica Public Schools will be conducting a review of our programming for students at the elementary level as it relates to social, emotional, and behavioral needs for all; please see information below from Billerica School Committee Chair Jim Gately inviting parents to provide their input:


The Billerica School Committee has contracted with the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) to conduct a study of structures and programs within the Billerica Public Schools. This study will focus on the elementary school level, particularly the relationship between special education and general education in supporting all students' social, emotional, and behavioral needs.
To support this work, representatives from NESDEC will be conducting interviews of parents in focus groups, small groups, and 1:1 settings. These interviews will take place during the day on Tuesday, January 9 and Friday, January 12, as well as in the afternoon/evening of Tuesday, January 16. If you are interested in participating in one of these 30-minute sessions, please fill out our form at

Thank you,
Jim Gately, Chair, Billerica School Committee

Friday, November 17, 2017

Steel Nearing Completion at BMHS

With Town Hall closed today, I had to find another place to work in the district, and so I found myself working out of Mr. Murphy's office at BMHS. And what a great sight to see out of his window as work was continuing on the last steel phase of the high school project - the auditorium area:

Thank you to the entire construction (Shawmut), design (Perkins + Will), and project management (Leftfield) team for keeping us on schedule and about to reach another milestone!

Monday, October 30, 2017

School for October 31

Thank you all for your patience with today's aftermath of the storm.  We have been continuing to assess the situation in town throughout the day, and as of this moment we have power at seven of our nine school buildings; the Hajjar and Vining are still without power, and we are not optimistic that power will be restored by morning.  As such, we are putting the following plan into place:

1. The seven buildings with power - BMHS, Locke, Marshall, Ditson, Dutile, Kennedy, and Parker - will be open as scheduled tomorrow.

2. If either the Hajjar or the Vining regain power by 6:15 tomorrow morning, school will be open; otherwise, both schools will be closed.  A message will go out to parents in those schools at 6:15 tomorrow morning with the announcement of the status of the schools.

3. If either the Hajjar or the Vining are closed, we will work with staff and the parents in those buildings to identify a makeup date later in the school year.

In addition, the Town of Billerica would like everyone to know that Trick-Or-Treating has been postponed until Friday evening, during the same scheduled hours of 5-8pm.

Thank you again for your patience and understanding,

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Update From Redistricting Team

At last week's School Committee meeting, I provided an update on the work of our Redistricting Team. This team is charged with developing a redistricting plan for implementation in the fall of 2019, and recommending it to the School Committee by the end of summer 2018.

The full update can be found on our Billerica 2019 Transition website; however, I wanted to state here the strongest guiding principles for the team's work, as informed by the surveys we conducted.  Those guiding principles are:

  • Regardless of what schools children attend, there should be equity in educational experiences - particularly as it relates to class size and resources
  • It is important to keep neighborhoods and school populations together as students progress through the system from elementary school to middle school
  • It is important to minimize the physical distance between students/families and the schools they attend
We will continue to provide periodic updates on our work, and questions specific to the Redistricting Team can be sent to  We have also created an email address for general questions about the transition; they can be directed to