TIM KELLY PHOTO
New Suffolk head teacher Holly Plymale readies her classroom for the arrival of students on Tuesday. The district expects 24 pupils in the two-classroom building.
It doesn’t really feel like fall, but North Fork students begin trekking back to classrooms next week and the week after for the start the 2010-11 school year.
Scheduling was complicated this year because the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 9 and 10. Only Greenport opted to delay its opening until Monday, Sept. 13. The other districts decided to welcome students back next week as usual. Mattituck-Cutchogue, Southold and New Suffolk students return to class on Tuesday, Sept. 7, and Oysterponds students on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Those school will then be closed for the two-day Jewish holiday.
Mattituck-Cutchogue enrollment is expected to be just over 1,500 students, up very slightly from last year, according to Superintendent James McKenna.
Technological improvements top changes made this summer in the district. Cutchogue East Elementary School now has wireless Internet access, new SmartBoards and 30 new “cows” — computers on wheels — that can be used in fifth- and sixth-grade classes when the computer lab is full. The high school has just opened its first Mac lab, with about five dozen Macs for students who are taking animation, graphic arts and television classes. And high school parents will be able to take advantage of a new “parent portal,” which will give them access to their children’s academic and attendance records.
Mr. McKenna said Monday that parents will have to come to the school building and show identification to get a parent access code, which will permit access to report cards and other online records. Cutchogue East will likely roll out the online access program later this school year, Mr. McKenna said.
The district is also unveiling a new point-of-sale payment system in the cafeteria, allowing students to either swipe a cards or pay cash for their lunches. Parents can deposit money into the swipe card accounts remotely from their home computers. In addition to the convenience, the new system offers anonymity for students who are receiving free and reduced-price lunches, since students who receive free lunches will also receive swipe cards and cashiers will be inputting only student IDs from the cards.
The district has hired 17 new teachers, secretaries and teaching assistants to replace staff members who have retired or resigned since last year.
“We’ll be looking at 17 new faces districtwide. That’s the most I remember,” Mr. McKenna said.
Among the newcomers are three teachers who will fill the shoes of teachers who took advantage of a New York State incentive for early retirement.
Julie Milliman will take over from Jim Underwood as a health and physical education teacher. Peter Hansen, who was appointed as a special education teacher assistant earlier this summer, will instead serve as a second part-time health and physical education teacher. The school has also hired Albert Capalongo as a part-time replacement for biology teacher David Darrow.
Back-to-school nights have been scheduled as follows: Junior high, Tuesday, Sept. 14; grades five and six, Monday, Sept. 20; high school, Tuesday, Sept. 21; third and fourth grade, Wednesday, Sept. 22; and kindergarten through second grade, Wednesday, Sept. 29. Parents will receive letters and phone reminders of times and locations.
It’s been a summer of construction in Southold, with work being done in the junior-senior high school auditorium, new tiles and fixtures in bathrooms, replacement of pipes that were installed in 1937, some new doors to improve security and an energy-efficient ventilation system to improve air circulation.
Superintendent David Gamberg and teachers expect about 890 students, pretty close to last year’s enrollment. Some construction will continue through the fall term, although it will be a lot less disruptive than what was undertaken during the summer, when the entire administrative team had to move to temporary quarters in the elementary school for a while, Mr. Gamberg said.
The district is still awaiting state education department approval of its proposed performance contract to start work on projects aimed at energy efficiency. Administrators and board members are working on a five-year facilities plan to keep building and grounds in good order, Mr. Gamberg said.
The major educational initiative this fall is the launch of a middle school program to put seventh- and eighth-graders in small groups, with more shared teaching and individual advisory sessions for students, aimed at helping them through what is often a challenging period in their emotional development.
While students in Greenport get a few extra days of summer vacation, their teachers will be back Tuesday and Wednesday of next week for training on a new Internet-based student management system to track progress from kindergarten through grade 12, Superintendent Michael Comanda said.
He expects 620 students on Sept. 13, about 10 fewer than last year.
During the summer, aging football field bleachers that were considered a danger were repaired and repainted, but the district faces a major building overhaul in the year ahead and an as-yet undetermined bond issue likely to be put to voters in December. The makeover will include roofing to stop serious leaks throughout the 1932 building, work on the auditorium ceiling and replacement of boilers and HVAC units that have been badly damaged by storms.
Mr. Comanda said the building repairs are critical and that public hearings on the project will begin at a 5:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
Thanks to the New York State incentive program, six teachers who hadn’t previously planned to retire opted to leave the district this fall, Mr. Comanda said.
The program enabled the Greenport Board of Education to offer contracts to two popular teachers who had been slated for layoffs, despite student protests last spring aimed at saving their jobs. English teacher Luke Conti and physical education teacher Todd Gulluscio will both be returning.
Enrollment at Oysterponds will shrink a bit this fall to 85 students, compared to about 100 last year, according to Superintendent Stuart Rachlin. The district expects to send 80 junior and senior high school students to Greenport while school board members continue to debate plans for educating the district’s secondary school students in the future.
Oysterponds had signed a three-year contract with Greenport that would have expired in 2012. A previous board later extended that contract to 2014. But last month, board members not only rescinded the two-year extension, but lopped one year off the original three-year contract. By resolution, the board has to decide by April 2011 where to send the next year’s group of secondary school students.
When students return, they’ll find new plantings in front of the school and an irrigation system in operation. Dr. Rachlin and board members are exploring steps to replace windows in the building.
But the main change will be new computers for the school’s technology lab. Some old computers that were in the lab will be given to students in classrooms to replace computers that are years past their prime, Dr. Rachlin said.
The tiny two-classroom schoolhouse on the hill, which only a few years ago had just five students, had 19 last year and this year the district expects 24 kindergarten through sixth-graders, Superintendent Robert Feger said.
“It’s nothing we can’t handle,” Mr. Feger said. “It’s just a matter of readjustment.”
Besides two full-time teachers, the board hired Nicole Pollina as special education and reading teacher and teachers aide.
Her arrival will enable the district to cope with recalculated test scores that mean academic intervention services will be required for six or seven students, instead of only one who needed extra help last year, Mr. Feger said. It’s not that students’ abilities have slipped this year, but that the state opted to use a federal grading system for test scores. That meant students who performed as well this year as they had last year got lower scores, requiring the district to offer extra intervention services.
There is a move in Albany to waive that requirement, Mr. Feger said. But he’s not waiting for a decision. He’s pushing ahead with academic intervention services regardless of the state’s action.
What’s positive about the age breakdown of this year’s New Suffolk students is that there are two or three students in each grade, making the teaching process easier, Mr. Feger said.
New Suffolk has nine secondary students being educated in Southold and four in Mattituck.