Area schools prepare for first day
TRI-COUNTY AREA (8/31/16)--It is back to school season across the country, as teachers, parents and students prepare to begin another educational year. School districts and their employees are working to prepare the buildings for the oncoming rush of students by cleaning the halls, finishing construction projects and working to get classrooms in order.
In Dundee, some 719 students are enrolled in the district for the first day of school, Tuesday Sept. 6. This is down from 754 at this time last year. There are 401 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, while there are 318 in seventh through 12th grade. The building principals are the same as last year, with Laurie Hopkins-Halbert returning as elementary principal and Chris Arnold continuing as junior and senior high school principal.
"Dundee Central School has made significant advancements and additions in our technology inventory and infrastructure," Houck said. "This school year we will be rolling out a true 1:1 initiative pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that encompasses iPads, laptops and Chromebooks. We are very excited about our Personalized Learning Initiative that incorporates a blended learning model and uses student data to inform instruction daily. Our summer school experience highlighted the effective use of digital contents and we look forward to infusing their use into the traditional school year as well."
Houck said these instructional changes are meant to support students in becoming more independent thinkers, learners and problem solvers, along with giving them more experiences in working with teaming and collaborative situations. She added these are the necessary skills for success in any college or career pathway.
"We are looking at the 2016-17 school year as being one of our best," Houck said. "We have invested a lot of resources in our commitment to creating and fostering personalized pathways for all our students that will yield great success filled with numerous accomplishments. There are still many challenges that we need to address. However, what makes Dundee Central School great, is the focus on every child every day."
While the campus does not currently have any active construction projects, Houck said the district is preparing for a community vote in November on a proposed capital project that will address facility needs in the bus garage, main building, campus-wide security upgrades and instructional renovations. She said this work will "support the learning needs of the 21st century learner and beyond."
In Penn Yan, the first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 6. There are 1,526 total students in the district this year, which is up from 1,474 students this time last year. This includes 668 at the elementary, 327 at the middle school and 531 at the academy. Edward Foote, Kelly Johnson and David Pullen return as principals this year.
Superintendent Howard Dennis said most of the district's capital project work has been completed, adding there may be some final work being finished up as school starts.
"Penn Yan elementary students will see new flooring in the corridors throughout the building, Penn Yan middle school students will see new flooring in parts of the main entrance, a new sound system on the auditorium, and new paint and carpeting in the auditorium," Dennis said. "The roadway to the upper fields has new drainage and has been paved."
Dennis also noted they are working through some curriculum changes and updates this year, along with a more formalized process for meeting student's needs. Dennis said there will also be a new Freshman Academy program beginning this fall. He said the district's goals for this school year include improving academic performance and achievement; promoting the advancement of children in social, emotional, physical and academic development; enhancing student curricular and extra-curricular opportunities and working in collaboration with parents and community members to guarantee the success of students. Dennis also said it was a goal to maintain fiscal responsibility, plan for long-term sustainability and being mindful of the current economic environment.
"We expect to have an amazing year," Dennis said.
In Hammondsport, the first day of school will be Sept. 6 from 7:45 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. for the first bus run and 3:20 p.m. for the second. There are some 500 students in the district, with 270 of the being in Pre-K through sixth grade and 230 grades seven through 12. These numbers are similar to last year's numbers. Michelle Sincerbox returns as the elementary principal while Tad Rounds returns as the junior/senior high school principal.
"[Parents and students should] be aware of new immunization requirements that have been imposed by New York State," Superintendent Kyle Bower said. "Our health office has been working with all parents this summer to make sure students come to the first day of school with the required immunizations they need based on grade level. Our 1:1 technology initiative continues. All students in grades two through five will be provided with an iPad on the first day of school. All students in grades six through 12 will be provided with a Chromebook on the first day of school."
Bower said there are no major changes at the district from last year, adding they will continue to look at their curriculum in all areas and make sure they are preparing students for success in the best ways possible. He mentioned the district did not fill one high school business teacher position left vacant due to a retirement.
"We have been able to reassign all but one of those courses to current teachers and are working to find creative ways to provide ACE accounting should enough students be interested in taking that course," Bower said. "We have added elementary Spanish as a special area class to better prepare our students in that area."
Watkins Glen will begin their school year with a soft opening Wednesday, Sept. 7 from 7:55 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the elementary school and for grades seven through nine. Superintendent Tom Phillips said the purpose of this is to ease the transition for elementary and new students at the high school. The regular schedule for all students begins Thursday, Sept. 8 grades seven through 12 from 7:52 a.m. to 2:47 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 is a half day early release for all students due to the Grand Prix Festival.
Phillips said there are 1,107 students in the district this year including universal pre-kindergarten. This is down from 1,160 at this time last year. There are currently 583 students enrolled in the elementary school and 524 in high school.
"Parents need to be aware of the traffic pattern change at the elementary for drop-off and pick-up of students," Phillips said. "We piloted the changes in late spring of last year as a response to safety concerns. This serves as a reminder to parents of those changes."
Phillips said the district also has some people in new administrative roles this year.
"We have had an administrative reorganization including the addition of a new elementary principal [Rebecca Trank]," Phillips said. "With the retirement of Nan Woodworth, Kristine Somerville is now the director of student services, as well as curriculum and professional development. Rod Weeden has taken on supervision of athletics as well as district data coordinator."
Phillips said the district was recognized nationally for equipping their school buses with Wi-Fi which will assist the district in addressing inequities among students with regard to quality of internet access. He said this will also allow the district to expand the classroom beyond the campus when taking field trips or for athletes who are in competition late into the evening. Phillips added they were able to receive state approval for the iLead Program, which will assist students by providing an alternative path to meeting graduation requirements. Phillips said they have also completed a Common Master Schedule for pre-kindergarten through 12 which will provide a uniform class schedule for the district, which will allow for increased efficiency of use of staff as well as continuity of programs district-wide.
"The district is focusing on the development of teacher leaders within the organization," Phillips said. "My hope is at the end of the school year we will have identified several teachers who will at least explore the potential leadership development. The focus of this initiative is to build a collaborative approach district planning and develop a deeper understanding within the district of the challenges and success the district has and can experience both now and in the future."
Odessa-Montour will have their first day of school Wednesday, Sept. 7 beginning at 8 a.m. and running until 2:55 p.m. The returning principals this year will be Veronica Lewis at the B.C. Cate elementary school (kindergarden through grade two), Rob Francishelli at the Howard A. Hanlon elementary school (grades three through six) and Almon McCarty at the Odessa-Montour junior/senior high school (grades seven through 12). There are 800 total students in the district with 200 at B.C. Cate, 200 at Hanlon and 340 at O-M. This number is similar to last year.
Superintendent Chris Wood said the district will be continuing work on the bus garage roof as school starts, but it should have no direct impact on the students. He noted the school has added a robotics and physics computer aided drawing class this year. Wood said the district is revamping their mission, vision and values statements, adding once they have done so, they will shape their goals and focus areas to match their district vision.
"We are expecting another great year academically," Wood said. "We had great success on our regents exams and expect that trend to continue."