St. James School to Become ‘Tilton Upper’ as Reorganization Plan Takes Shape

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta shows 2019 plan to add a St. James middle school district. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Tilton Tigers’ roar will soon be heard in stereo.

When St. James School begins accepting students in grades 4-6 next September, it will be more closely aligned with Tilton School and be overseen by the same principal.

Tilton Principal Bonnie Antkowiak, credited with the “turnaround” of Tilton School, remains in charge of what will be known as “Tilton Lower” on Grove Street. She will also take responsibility for St. James, now cast as “Tilton Upper,” confirmed school Superintendent Margaret Marotta Monday. The focus is on families living in the Mount Washington and lower Broadway neighborhoods.

“The idea is that this is going to foster continuity for Tilton students and families and make for a strong school community at both schools,” said Antkowiak.

As WHAV first reported in early March, Marotta said St. James School on Primrose Street is underused. It educates 80 students participating in two special education programs, but could accept 350 students as a mostly middle school. All fourth-grade classes at Tilton will move to St. James along with fifth and sixth graders—about 150 to 200 students in all. Tilton Lower will house about 400 students from kindergarten to grade three.

Haverhill School Committee approved what was called a “rightsizing” plan April 11. The aim was to reduce classroom sizes in some schools by using vacant space in others. It calls for Haverhill Alternative School to move to Greenleaf School, while the Therapeutic Education Assessment Center of Haverhill moves to Bartlett School next fall.

The superintendent said overcrowding is mostly a result of the city not having as many middle school classrooms as it has at elementary schools. She explained, the system historically accommodated 30 classes in every grade through fourth, but then only planned for 22 classes of each grade beginning with middle school.

Last fall, Tilton School celebrated a 20-point increase in its MCAS scores over the last three years—a boost from a 1 percentile rank to the percentile rank of 21. Antkowiak was named Tilton principal in 2015 by former school Superintendent James F. Scully.

The city has leased St. James School from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for 45 years. It previously served as a parochial school. The lease is up for renewal at the end of June and the city has received a verbal agreement on extension.

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