By Krystle S. Morey and Matthew Saari
In only a few short days schools throughout the region will reopen their doors to students, class bells will be ringing through the halls and a new school year will commence.
Here’s a look at what you need to know before attendance is taken:
Students in the Granville Central School District return to the classroom on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
“It’s been busy, for sure, getting the school back up and ready to roll,” said superintendent Thomas McGurl.
The school will send robo calls to district homes – Tuesday, before school starts, and Wednesday, the first day of school – reminding parents about the first day of school and expectations of students.
Busses will arrive at Granville High School at 7:45 a.m. The school day runs from 7:53 a.m. to 2:24 p.m. The regular 4 p.m. late bus will be offered and, new this year, a 5 p.m. bus will be available to transport student-athletes home after practice.
The Granville Elementary School day begins at 8:05 a.m., with busses arriving at 7:55 a.m. Bus students are dismissed at 2:35 p.m. and walkers are dismissed at 2:43 p.m.
Busses arrive at Mary J. Tanner School at 8:05 p.m. The school day begins at 8:15 p.m. Bussers are dismissed at 2:45 p.m. and walkers are released at 2:56 p.m.
McGurl, who was appointed superintendent in July, plans to spend the second week of September riding the busses to familiarize himself with the district and its students.
“It’s hard to work with the kids if you don’t know where they come from,” he said.
On the first day of school, both seventh and eighth grade students will meet for the Junior High Retreat, which presents a fun day of workshops and activities to help new students get to know their classmates, teachers, staff and school.
Attendance at the retreat is required. Students should wear comfortable “physical education” clothing and sneakers. Sunscreen and water bottles are also recommended. Breakfast pizza will be provided.
Junior high students will receive their homework planners at the retreat. Students in other grades will receive their planners during assemblies throughout the first day.
With the new school year comes a slate of new administrators and other school staff. The 2017-18 school year will be the first in the district for McGurl and elementary school principal Cara Talmadge.
“Our goal is to ensure all students’ needs are met, and a love of learning is instilled,” Talmadge wrote in her principal’s message on the school’s website. “With your support, we can provide a solid foundation upon which to build academic skills and cultivate each student’s unique talents.”
She added: “I look forward to meeting and working with you and your child this fall!”
James Polunci was appointed by the board Monday to serve as interim high school principal for the school year. Polunci succeeds former principal Camille Harrelson, who left her post over the summer to serve as the district’s special education director.
Mary J. Tanner School will retain Keith LaLone as its principal for the second school year.
A slate of new teachers was also hired before the 2017-18 school year: Tiffany DuVal, fifth grade; Adam Langworthy, math; Shelly Moore, elementary special education; Beth Williams, elementary special education; Mikayla Wells, intermediate special education; Jeremy Duers, social studies; Megan Briner, social studies; Breanne Sprague, intermediate math support; Brandon Trinkle, agriculture; Kateri Orr, speech and hearing pathologist; Richard Myott, high school physics teacher; and Trista Luke, library media specialist.
Missing from the halls this year are several recently retired staff members, including Lori Glasier, elementary teacher; Lori Kearsing, elementary teacher; Sheryl Porrier, sixth grade teacher; Susan Hosley, high school teacher; Gary Gendron, high school teacher; Cathy Darius, teachers’ aide; Violet Landon, lunch and bus monitor; Deb Straub, teachers’ aid; and Norma Deepe, teachers’ aide.
Cathy Kilby, who retired from her position as a high school math teacher at the end of the last school year, was appointed Monday to return as a long-term substitute technology teacher. She’ll earn $189.39 a day.
Together the retirees had a combined 263 years of service in the school district.
When students return, they’ll also see a few building upgrades, including new lockers in the girls’ locker room, new entry doors to the high school gymnasium, and a new district learning lab in the high school.
McGurl said other improvements, including updating computers and other general maintenance such as cleaning floors and painting, are also being completed.
“It’ll be good to see the kids back in the building again,” McGurl said.
In Fort Ann the first day of school will be Wednesday, Sept. 6. First bell is at 8:07 a.m. and the day ends at 2:31 p.m. After-school ends at 3:20 p.m.
The Fort Ann district welcomes two new administrators this year – a principal and a business manager.
“Mrs. Blanchard retired,” said Fort Ann district clerk Shelley Gregorio.
Justin Hoskins will be assuming the role of high school principal and Alexander Bodensieck will be the new business manager.
No new programs are being offered in the Fort Ann district.
Hartford Central School District kicks off its 2017-18 school year on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
“Everyone is really excited to have the kids back and we’re counting down the days,” said superintendent Andrew Cook.
Doors open at 8 a.m. daily.
Homeroom in the middle-high school begins at 8:13 a.m. and students are dismissed at 2:30 p.m. Elementary students are dismissed at 2:27 p.m.
“You’re always excited for the summer months, just for the fun and outdoor activities that you can do, but during the summer months, the district itself is pretty lonely,” Cook said.
He added: “Once the fair comes, you know that school is right around the corner. That’s when the level of excitement and anticipation of having all of the kids come back to school really starts to build up.”
Students will see a lot of familiar faces when they return next week because there were no retirements from the 2016-17 school year.
The school is working to fill instrumental band and shared literacy positions.
Students will also see a few building upgrades upon their return.
“Maintenance-wise, all of the classrooms have been cleaned, all of the floors and hallways have been waxed and cleaned,” Cook said. The school parking lot was also re-sealed.
“Our cleaning staff has worked really hard over the summer to make sure that every nook and cranny of the district has been sterilized and buffed and cleaned and waxed. The facility is looking really good, waiting for our kids to come back,” Cook added.
The district is also working on its “Red Light Project,” a security system which will alert those outside the building with red lights and sirens that the building is in lockdown mode.
“Any of our teachers and classes that are outside will be notified immediately that we are in a lockdown and they will go to their designated safe area,” Cook said. He said the system is also useful for notifying school staff who are returning from lunch or from an errand outside of the school, and visiting parents.
“They will see that the beacons are going off, realize the school is in a lockdown and that they need to stay away for their own safety,” Cook added.
The lights and sirens were installed on the school campus, starting last Thursday.
The school is required to have four lockdown drills each school year. It will deploy the new notification system during each to start practicing with it right away. Also, during superintendent’s day Sept. 5, school faculty and staff will go over lockdown, lock-out and shelter in place protocol.
“As part of that training, we are going to talk about the Red Light Project,” Cook said.
Reminders will be sent home to parents and guardians throughout the year to notify them what the red lights and sirens mean and what they should do if they approach the district during a lockdown.
Cook said the Red Light Project was put into place to help the district better communicate with classes that are outside when there is a lockdown or a drill. They could be outside for a number of reasons: physical education, science experiments, etc. Previously, the district used radios to communicate with those classes.
“We had to have a better, quicker and more effective way to communicate with our faculty and staff who are outside that we are in a lockdown, as well as parents and visitors to the district,” he said. “We needed an external signal to let people know, for their own safety, to stay away.”
Faculty and staff will practice and know where the designated safe areas outside the school are.
The district factored the Red Light Project, which cost about $4,000, into its 2017-18 budget.
The district also upgraded its fire and access door panels over the summer, which will allow administrators to lock key access doors. Last year there were a couple of instances where faculty could still access the building during lockdowns using their key cards. The new systems will prevent that.
For more information, visit hartfordcsd.org or call 518-632-5222. The district is also on social media: @HartfordCSD on Twitter and Facebook.com/Hartford-Central-School-1117735831584151.
Putnam Central School will begin its first day of classes on Tuesday, Sept. 5. First period begins at 7:20 a.m. and the day closes out at 1:55 p.m.
The Putnam district was in the process of finalizing some new faculty.
“We’re in the process, it’s not official yet,” said Putnam district clerk Kim Brown.
No new programs are being offered in the Putnam district.
Whitehall’s first day of classes begins on Thursday, Sept. 7. For the elementary kids the day begins at 8:35 a.m. and anyone arriving after 8:45 a.m. will be considered tardy. The elementary students finish their day at 3:10 p.m.
The district will be welcoming some new teachers at the elementary school, including Tammy Casey, first grade; Peter Paul, elementary special education; Kassandra VanGuilder, first grade; Jordan Cottrell, kindergarten.
Elementary principal Rich Trowbridge said there will be a new program instituted this year.
“One of the things we’re trying to implement is MindUP,” he said. “It’s really to help kids self-regulate; how to cope with things that aren’t going well.”
MindUP is a program initiated by the Hawn Foundation which “utilizes a brain-centered approach to integrating neuroscience, positive psychology, mindful awareness training and social and emotional learning, as tools for success in the classroom and in life.”
“We’re going to do that school-wide every day from 9 to 9:20 a.m.,” Trowbridge said.
Trowbridge said the school also has arranged to have two dental services come to the district at yet-to-be-determined dates.
“Hudson Headwaters will be providing dental services twice throughout the year; once in the fall, once in the spring,” said Trowbridge.
The elementary school will also be continuing the Positive Behavioral Intervention Services which has been a staple of previous years.
“PBIS is still a big part of our world up here,” Trowbridge said.
“We’re hoping this year to build a strong, positive community within our school,” added Holly Pelkey, grade two teacher.
Under this program, whenever a student is observed performing a generous deed, he or she receives a ticket which is place into an empty water jug. Once enough jugs are filled, the students are treated to something special.
High school students will also begin the year on Thursday, Sept. 7. First bell is at 7:30 a.m. and the regular day ends at 2:10 p.m. After-school ends at 3 p.m. High school students load up on the buses which transport them to the elementary school to pick up the younger students before heading on.
One of the biggest changes for students with driver’s licenses is they will now have to register their vehicle at the high school office.
“We’re going to be handing out parking passes they have to put in their windows,” said high school principal Jeff Keller. “Even kids who had a spot previously.”
Each vehicle will be assigned a numbered spot in the newly painted parking lot.
Perhaps the most anticipated change is the addition of several new courses to the curriculum, some of which are college-level. Among the course offerings are U.S. military history, seventh grade Spanish, statistics and psychology.
The high school is also welcoming new faculty members: Chelsea Morse, physical education/health; Rebecca Roderick, middle school science; Ona Lindberg, junior/senior special education; Ashley Bakemeirer, library/media; Sean Mulvey, junior/senior dean of students.