Volunteers pose in front of a new early childhood-age playground installed this month at St. Agnes Academy in Dalton. The area will be landscaped and have
Volunteers pose in front of a new early childhood-age playground installed this month at St. Agnes Academy in Dalton. The area will be landscaped and have a shade structure as well. (Courtesy photo)

DALTON

Youngsters at St. Agnes Academy will have a new place to play this school year.

A group of parent-teacher organization volunteers, kids and community members, with support from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and L.P. Adams, were able to install a new playground designed for the school's expanded early education program.

Headmaster James Stankiewicz said the pre-kindergarten is filled to capacity, with 25 children enrolled -- full and part-time -- and kindergarten has about 15 students.

"Three years ago, our pre-K had about six kids. I think we have excellent teachers and a great program that's helped us grow," Stankiewicz said.

The growth and a dated play area spurred the campaign to develop a new playground.

Earlier this month, St. Agnes held a community-build day to help dig and level the grounds near the rectory, and put in the new equipment. The area is fenced in and will be landscaped with mulch and green areas. A structure also will be added for shade, as required for accreditation.

Stankiewicz said though the new play area will be the most noticeable change at the academy, there also are a few new efforts taking place this school year.

The 1:1 iPad program will continue for a second year in the middle school grades. Students in these grades will also be using e-textbook materials this year versus bound books. Last year, the middle school piloted e-texts for science. This year, social studies will be added.


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Stankiewicz said both teachers and students seem amenable to using digital instruction tools.

"It's been great. Technology, it's just a way of life with the kids," he said.

The headmaster said the school is considering adding a technology fee into tuition. He said that using e-texts are less expensive than textbooks, but that technology, like iPads and other computing equipment can be costly to maintain and kept up-to-date. Already, the school's first set of purchased iPads are three years old, which is considered well-aged in the realm of the ever-changing digital age.

St. Agnes Academy also is looking to expand the breadth and depth of its service-learning program to include more locally based initiatives. The school sponsors Sheltering Wings, which operates a school, mission, clinic and orphanage in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Through annual student-led fundraising projects, the school sponsors two children through Sheltering Wings.

Stankiewicz said overall enrollment at St. Agnes Academy is up to 155 students, bucking the trend of declining enrollment in Catholic schools. He said the academy has a development plan to increase the amount of scholarship funds to students to make the parochial school more affordable and increase its student population.