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Getting ready for back-to-school

TRI-COUNTY AREA—Parents and students are getting ready for the start of the new school year.
Penn Yan, Dundee, Watkins Glen, and Odessa-Montour school districts open the doors to students, Wednesday, Sept. 8. At Hammondsport, the first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 7. Meanwhile, student athletes have already started practice for the upcoming fall season. School staff and administrators are also getting ready, preparing the classrooms for students.
The most obvious change in the Penn Yan Central School District is the Academy. Superintendent of Schools Ann Orman said, “The Academy will be pretty much open and running. There are a few punch list items to be finished. The classrooms are done. The front entrance will be completed during the first month of school.” Orman said she had a quick look at the newly renovated auditorium at the Academy and it is “awesome.”
Crews will be cleaning the middle school and elementary school next. The appearance of the parking lots will be the same as improvements there were taken out of the budget.
The district is continuing to work with the Finger Lakes Visitors Association for the purchase of the Branchport school building.
Staffing has also been addressed. There have been just three teachers hired, all in the middle school. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Staff Development, Howard Dennis, is working with the staff to study individual reports and curriculum. Test scores were lower in the last school year and this is a focus of attention.
Orman said, “It seems to be going pretty good.”
One unknown is the greeting students will receive on the first day of school. Orman said staff come up with special greetings each year to welcome back students.
Watkins Superintendent Tom Phillips said staff reductions included one art teacher in the middle school, one English teacher in the high school, two teaching assistants, one administrator, one district special education teacher and two elementary teachers. He added that driver education won’t be offered during the regular school year, except at summer school.
However, Watkins Glen has added two classes, and changed a third. The two new classes are Mandarin Chinese (offered through Daemon College) and Current Issues in Science Technology and Society. An Advanced French class is now ACE French, where students can get college credits. Phillips explained the Current Issues class was created as part of Watkins Glen receiving a grant to install a solar panel and wind turbine at the high school.
Students in grades two through four will also make use of an “outdoor classroom.” Work was completed on an area right at the marsh within the school’s property. It includes bench seating for students and an observation deck over state wetlands.
Phillips added the only major change to the coaching staff is football. Mike Johnston will be the coach for the fall season.
Dundee Superintendent Kathy Ring outlined changes at DCS. In the junior and senior high, the rotating periods (titled with letters A through E), will be cut by one period. In addition, all classes will meet for 50 minutes, whether junior or senior high school. In this type of system, the letters indicate which class will be the first of the day, rotating through the letters. Ring said the benefit of the change will be consistency of class meeting times.
Also starting in junior high, students will be assigned a permanent locker. This will be the same locker they use until graduation.
A new course in AP Statistics has been added.
The Literacy program this year will be “Our Town Rocks and Reads.” As the title indicates, the district plans to involve the community more. The STARS team at the elementary school has this year’s character piece ready to go. This is the character education program at the elementary school.
A bullying task force has also been developed.
Changes in practice areas for sports teams are being implemented. Coincidentally, as in Penn Yan, three new teachers on the DCS staff will all teach at the middle school level. The technology department has added a systems analyst and computer technician. Still to be hired is a social worker. Social worker Deb Combs will continue with the district part time until a replacement is hired.
At Odessa-Montour staffing concerns have meant limiting student privileges. Superintendent Jim Frame said at the middle and high school level, students finishing early with lunch will not be able to go to the gym to spend time. He added that seniors will still be able to go to the senior lounge. Juniors and seniors, and sophomores inducted into the National Honor Society, will still be able to get Honor Passes (as long as there are no failing grades). Frame said Citizenship Passes will no longer be given.
However, seniors will not be able to leave the school for lunch. Frame said changes are being made to the menu so students should not want to leave for outside food.
The breakfast time for middle and high school students will also be reduced. Frame said breakfast will be served until 8:20 a.m., the same as Hanlon and B.C. Cate.
Frame added that students will now have to park on campus, instead of on the side streets. He said students will also have to register their cars. Frame explained that the new parking lot will be able to accommodate everyone.
At Hanlon, Frame said lunch will now be 30 minutes, with 20 minutes of recreation. He added there will be reading and Academic Intervention Services (AIS) scheduled into the day.
The other changes for Odessa-Montour include the construction done over the summer. Frame said security will be improved.
One big change for Hammondsport is with the start of this school year, all students will be at the Main Street campus. Students will no longer go to class at the Glenn Curtiss Elementary School. Some rooms have been rearranged to accommodate the students coming over from Curtiss.
A reminder to drivers on the road, it is illegal to pass a school bus when the red lights on top are flashing. This includes vehicles driving in the opposite lane, or coming up behind the bus.


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