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Emblem Academy off and running after years of being shuttered

Posted: September 4, 2013 4:53 p.m.
Updated: September 4, 2013 4:53 p.m.

First-grade teacher Nancy Bilek, left, follows along on her laptop as first-grader Brooke Bague touches a sound key on the SMART Board as her first-grade class studies the science of pitch at Emblem Academy in Saugus on Wednesday. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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SANTA CLARITA - The sign out front still says Emblem Elementary School, but the newly reopened and rebranded Emblem Academy is quite a bit different than what existed when the school closed its doors more than two years ago.

There’s a new two-story building that houses pods of classrooms and “break out” rooms for educational activities.

There are new facilities to house transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms.

“There are all these brand-new buildings,” said Emblem Academy Principal Jon Baker as he walked around campus Wednesday. “They really expand what we are able to do.”

The educational landscape of the school is about as different as the physical layout.

The school has an emphasis that revolves around science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Baker, a longtime administrator in the Saugus Union School District, also added a different spin to the STEM concept, emphasizing ethics, science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and math.

Baker calls this approach ESTEEM.

“What’s exciting is that the slate is clean and you can go in so many directions,” Baker said. “And the challenge is that the slate is clean and you can go in so many directions.”

Part of that is learning how best to use new technological devices that have been added to the school including SMART Boards — electronic spins on the white board — in Emblem's classrooms.

“The technology aspect is very important to what we are doing and what we hope to do,” Baker said.

One class used the board to learn about musical pitch. Students took turns using the board’s touch screen to tap out notes on a virtual guitar or xylophone.

Saugus district Superintendent Joan Lucid also took a turn at the board Wednesday, playing the first few notes of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

“It’s amazing what you can do with these things,” she said afterward. “It’s so much more engaging than saying, ‘Here’s a book, read it.’”

When Emblem reopened in August it marked the culmination of a long and sometimes uncertain period for the school.

Emblem was closed for three years for renovation prior to reopening for the 2009-2010 school year. The Saugus district then closed the school again for further construction.

Declining enrollment and the housing slump presented further challenges for the site even as district officials pledged not to shutter the school.

During construction, Emblem students attended classes at Highlands Elementary School.

Emblem currently has a population of around 600 students, many of whom made a point to greet Baker as he walked around campus.

“We want to prepare our students for the future,” he said. “And I’m very excited, our staff is very excited, to have the opportunity to do that.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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