The American School System
Public education in the United States is free and mandatory for all children, from kindergarten to 12th grade. The age a child can start kindergarten is different from state to state. In Massachusetts, a child usually must be 5 years old by September 1st. Each child attends a school in the city where s/he lives, and each neighborhood is designated a certain school. Parents generally cannot choose a school outside of that city, or choose a different school in that city. If parents want more choices, they may choose to send their child to a private school, which is not free and may not be in their city. Schools start in September (after Labor Day) on the East Coast. In this district, grades K-4 are elementary school, 5-8 middle school, and 9-12 high school. In other systems, it is common for fifth grade to remain in the elementary school.
Kindergarten through 4th grade. Students have one teacher for the entire day. At the beginning of EACH school year (in September), students are mixed into the new grade with new students and a new teacher. They do not keep the same class each year.
Belmont Elementary Schools:
Middle School :
- Winn Brook
- Wellington (includes pre-K for the town)
5th through 8th grade: Chenery Middle School. In Belmont, students have 1-2 core academic teachers in 5th grade and then 4 core academic teachers in 7th and 8th grade.
This is 7th and 8th grade and in Belmont is included in middle school. A big city might have a separate school for junior high.
9th through 12th grade: Belmont High School. Students have a different teacher for each subject and special.
Vacations, Holidays, and Early Release in the Belmont School District
Labor Day – September
Columbus Day – October
Veterans’ Day – November
Thanksgiving Vacation – November
Winter Vacation – December
Martin Luther King Day – January
February Vacation – February
April Vacation – April
Memorial Day - May
Please check your child’s school calendar for specific dates.
Early Release Days
Each Wednesday dismissal is earlier than other days of the week, but certain Wednesdays are early release days. This means dismissal is even earlier. These days are sometimes the same for ALL Belmont schools, but some early release days are only for certain levels (only elementary, for example). Please check your child’s school calendar for specific school hours and early release days.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- When do I meet the teacher? Back To School Night is generally held in the 2nd or 3rd week of school. It is not a time to meet with the teacher and talk about your child, but you will meet all the teachers in the grade and learn about that grade’s curriculum. You also meet parents who are in the same class.
- Is it OK to request a meeting with the teacher? Yes! There are parent-teacher conferences twice a year through 8th grade, in October and March, and every fall in high school, but parents can arrange a meeting with the teacher any time. You can also email the teacher any time.
- What does the school expect of a parent? American schools encourage parents to take an active part in their child’s learning.
- Sending children on time to school and prepared for school (having homework, books, etc).
- Reading with your child every day, or expecting them to read on their own, even if it is in the native language.
- Helping with your child’s homework, if you speak English.
- What can I do to help at the school? Join or help the PTO, the Parent Teacher Organization! Parents are not required to help in the school, but the school can always use volunteers! Every American school has a group of parents who volunteer their time to help out with school activities and to raise money for the school. The PTO is responsible for Library Night, Game Night, Movie Night, Color Day, field trips, and much more. You can volunteer to help in the library during your child’s library time. The library is always in need of help and your child will be excited to see you!
Some Surprises For New Families
- American schools often lock their doors so that no strangers can enter the building. If you would like to enter the building, please ring the bell at the front door and announce yourself and you will be let in.
- American schools require all visitors, even parents, to check in at the office. Parents should not walk their child to the classroom or enter the school without first going to the office. This keeps all the children at school safe and all teachers aware of who is in the school.
- Daylight Savings Time! Twice a year, America changes its clock. In November, we move our clocks backward in the middle of the night. In March, we move our clocks forward. We say “Fall back, Spring forward.” This can surprise a family from a country where the clocks are not changed and result in being late or early to school.
- It is acceptable to talk with your child’s teacher(s) if you have any concerns or questions. There are conferences (meetings) every year when parents sign up for a time to sit down with the teacher and discuss your child’s education. If you would like a meeting at a different time, please ask the teacher and he or she will happily create one.
- Schools do not require parents to help in the school, which is the case in some countries. However, all schools accept volunteers. The library often needs volunteers and you can be there at the time your child has library. There have been parents who do this who do not even speak English!
- Everyone who volunteers at the school must fill-out a CORI form. This is a Criminal Offender Record Information. This lets the schools know that people volunteering in the school are safe to work with children and have not broken laws in the United States. You can get one from the school office.
- Any parent can ask for a translator at any time if they would like to talk to the principal, teacher, or anyone else at the school. This is especially important at conference time.
- In elementary and middle school, your child’s classmates will be mixed with all other students from the same grade for the following school year. The classes do not remain the same each year. The school pairs each child with the teacher who is the best fit for that student.
Who Is My Child’s ESL Teacher?
The ESL teachers not only teach your child English, but they are happy to answer questions you may have about Belmont, Boston, traveling, or just where to eat.
- Burbank Elementary
- Daniel Butler Elementary
- Wellington Elementary
- Winn Brook Elementary
- Chenery Middle School
- High School
Glossary of English Acronyms and Terms
- ESL – English as a Second Language (the program that teaches English)
- ELL – English Language Learner (the student learning English)
- PTA / PTO -Parent Teacher Association or Parent Teacher Organization. The PTA or PTO is a group of parents who volunteer their time to arrange fun activities for kids and to help raise money for the school. Some parents are elected as officials and organize events. Other parents just volunteer to help with one activity. You can decide how much to help and they are always looking for volunteers! You can even volunteer in the library during the time that your child’s class is there.
- Field Trip – This is a special event where children get to leave the school as a class to visit a place, like a farm, or a ballet performance, or somewhere else. Parents will first need to sign a paper that approve of the field trip. The school may ask for parents to drive and/or to help watch the children during the field trip to keep them safe. This is called being a chaperone.
- Conferences – an opportunity for every parent to meet privately with their child’s teacher. This happens twice a year, in October and March, and requires you to reserve a meeting time with the teacher. Translators are available if you ask!
- Curriculum – the subjects and topics that are taught in a class
- Book Fair – Scholastic books holds a book fair every year in each elementary school. The books are a good price and the school receives some of the money from each order. The school will advertise which days and times of the book fair and you attend and buy books that night.
And remember this about Language Learning
- Learning to read in ANY language will help build reading skills.
- Speaking practice in ANY language will help build communication skills (talking about your day, putting things in sequence, paraphrasing, explaining how to do something, etc)
Links for English Learning, for Adults or kids (with help)
www.manythings.org - ESL exercises. – This is a favorite !
a4esl.org - Quizzes, tests, exercises and puzzles to help students learn English
www.esl-lab.com - a collection of on line dialogs with quizzes.
www.idiomconnection.com - Idioms by subject and alphabetically.
For Parents Wanting to Learn/Practice English – Project Literacy
Project Literacy in Watertown offers FREE English classes and conversation. The offices are at the Watertown Public Library. Here is information about Project Literacy:
- Six levels of night time English classes during the school year. (registration required)
- A chance to learn from a tutor one-on-one (there is a waiting list)
- A Conversation group called Let’s Talk for all levels (no registration, no waiting list)
- Project Literacy Connection, a group of people wanting to meet up for fun activities and practice speaking English.
- Learn more at http://www.watertownlib.org/catalog/page.asp?id=146
- Questions or to sign up to receive emails, contact Lindi DeLorio email@example.com
Things To Do Around Belmont/Boston
- The Belmont library. You can get a library card at the library by showing them an official document with your current Belmont address. This is usually a recent utility bill (gas, electric, water, phone) with your name and address on it. Your library card allows you to check out books, movies, and even get tickets to the museum that save you money! All activities and programs at the library are all free. The children’s room has a monthly calendar in print or online. The Children’s room has a calendar of events every month: http://belmontpubliclibrary.net/events/
- Project Literacy Connection is a group of students of Project Literacy and their families who gather outside of class to play, meet new friends, and practice their English. Past events have been attending free concerts in the park, free movies at a library, bringing your kids to the park to play, and game night at the library. The group is led by one of Belmont’s ESL Teachers, Lindi DeLorio (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in Massachusetts. The DCR owns land for camping, hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities. There is a Riverwalk along the Charles River that runs from Waltham all the way to Boston. http://www.mass.gov/dcr/
When To Visit a Museum For the Best Price !*
*You can always reserve a discounted or sometimes free pass to a museum by reserving tickets through the Belmont library. You must have a Belmont library card to do this.
- Boston Children’s Museum – Every Friday from 5:00-9:00, pay only $1
- Harvard Museum of Natural History - free admission to Massachusetts residents (Bring ID) every Sunday morning from 9:00am-12:00
- The MIT Museum - free admission for everyone on Sundays from 10:00am-12:00.
- Institute of Contemporary Arts - 100 Northern Avenue on Boston’s waterfront
1. Free for everyone from 5:00-9:00pm every Thursday
2. Free for families ) on the last Saturday of each month (up to 2 adults accompanied by children 12 and under).
How to reserve a museum pass through the Belmont Public Library
Go to: http://belmontpubliclibrary.net
How to Reserve a Museum Pass Guide