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Students to Have Their First Day at New Reggio School in Avon

CREC's new Reggio Magnet School of the Arts on Waterville Road opens Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.

Credit: Jessie Sawyer
Credit: Jessie Sawyer
Ever since the Capitol Region Education Council's Reggio Magnet School of the Arts moved to Fisher Drive in Avon in 2008, CREC has talked about opening a larger school for its growing student body.

On Monday, Jan. 6, that dream comes to fruition as Reggio students have their first day in their new school on Waterville Road in town.

"It's unbelievable. It really is a dream come true," Stacey Allen, administrative assistant to Reggio Principal Josie Dipietro-Smith, said. "The staff walks through here, especially the teacher who have been here for the past five years, they walk through and the things that they talked about years ago, I'd love to have this or that, seeing that materialize is just unbelievable."

Students and parents had a sneak peek of the school this fall. 

"They were enamored. Parents and kids really were so excited. They've been waiting a long time for this," Julia Winer, a spokesperson for CREC, said. "A lot of our families are pioneer families, the ones that have been with the school in many temporary spaces and put up with not ideal situations. They really deserve what they've been waiting for."

Parents can enter the school parking lot through the Avonwood Road side. The private road now has a new traffic light at the Waterville Road (Route 10) intersection that was incorporated into the project. There is another entrance directly off of Waterville that will be reserved for emergency vehicle access.

Reggio follows an Italian philosophy of education that is "child-centered," letting the students "guide where the instruction goes" based on their interests and involving nature in the curriculum, according to Winer.

"If they have an interest, the entire day might be based on what that child interest was for that day," Winer said. 

The nature lab at the new school, a place for them to interact with nature, was inspired by the students, Allen said. 

Classes are grouped in teams, or pods.

"It'll be all the same curriculum and all the same classes, but there will be spaces that they didn't have before," Winer said. 

For instance, a rooftop garden, now dusted with snow, will be a place where the children can grow plants once springtime arrives. 

"They haven't had a space that really works for that," Winer said. 

The classrooms are connected to smart boards and have computer stations for the children. 

Most Reggio schools are centered around and indoor piazza that is similar to an "Italian city square," school officials said. The Avon staff has long been pushing for a piazza. 

Avon's has amphitheater-style seating, bordered with columns, a ceiling with decorative clouds hanging and a stage that doubles as the music room. 

There is also a room of lockers for storing instruments taught to students and a recording studio.  

The school also has more resources now, including the expansion of the instrumental program. The foundation supporting Reggio has raised money for string and band instruments and accepted donations. 

The cafeteria, which is safari-themed, serves hot and cold breakfast, as well as lunch, with nutritious options. Everything is made from scratch. Jessica Smith, who works with a culinary group called Whitsons, is the cafeteria director. 

The first graduating class in Avon Reggio's history will have the opportunity to attend the school for half a school year before they graduate and move on to sixth grade elsewhere.

The school will house pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and Reggio anticipates having 465 students next year.

The school is staffed by about 60 educators, including para-educators. Reggio is also hiring support staff and may be looking for more fifth-grade teachers in the future. Job openings are posted on the CREC website.

Students are accepted through a lottery application process to the Regional School Choice Office. Applications will be accepted through the end of February for the next school year and parents will find out about whether their children have been accepted by April. 

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