KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Oysterponds principal Francoise Wittenburg and student Nate Busch, 6, of Orient in the school’s new STEM lab, which is replacing the old computer center.
North Fork students can expect a more high-tech learning experience when they return to school next week, now that most districts have invested in laptops and iPads.
School officials believe the use of new technologies in the classroom is crucial to preparing students to learn current research techniques.
Here’s a roundup of what else is in store for the coming school year, which begins on Wednesday, September 5, for the Mattituck-Cutchogue, New Suffolk, Southold and Greenport districts. Oysterponds reopens on Thursday, September 6.
Superintendent Dick Malone, who was hired this summer after Joan Frisicano resigned, said the district is focused on teaching students to learn through new technologies.
The library has been replaced with a “literacy center,” which Mr. Malone said will give students an opportunity to enjoy reading outside a formal classroom setting.
“We want to create an environment where students will develop a love of reading and learning,” he said, adding that the literacy center will include quiet reading corners.
The district has also created a lab to enrich the school’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics program, known as STEM.
A lab teacher will coordinate with students and teachers on research projects, Mr. Malone said.
Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders will also learn research and reading techniques on iPads this year.
In addition, former board member Kathy Syron will teach the district’s new preschool, which was spearheaded by Ms. Frisicano to attract new families into the K-6 district, as well as to nurture students’ interests and natural curiosity.
Within the past school year, Oysterponds enrollment decreased from 81 to 72. The district’s total K-12 enrollment has declined from 174 last year to 165, a number that includes the pre-K program.
Greenport high school principal Len Skuggevik said teachers were trained on iPads this week, and each of the district’s ninth- and tenth-graders will receive one.
Textbooks and free scientific calculator applications will be downloaded to the iPads, which Mr. Skuggevik described as an opportunity for students to learn how to use new technology and research techniques. It’s also a cost savings move, he said.
“When you put it all together, it works out cheaper and better for our students,” the principal said.
Fifth- and sixth-graders will receive donated laptops the school received through a private grant.
In addition, the district’s sixth grade will now be a part of the secondary school. Those students will now have an opportunity to take secondary school courses, such as technology and home economics. Seventh- and eighth-graders will receive about 2,500 extra minutes of math and English through a new lab course.
Mr. Skuggevik said student enrollment for the 2012-13 school year is about the same as last year, with 636 students.
New Suffolk Board of Education president Tony Dill said newly appointed superintendent Michael Comanda, who is also Greenport’s superintendent, is helping the district obtain the tools it needs to prepare students for the future.
Mr. Dill said the district received 25 donated laptops, which students will be allowed to take home, through a private grant secured by Mr. Comanda. In addition, a third smartboard was purchased this year, so that each classroom will now have one.
Mr. Dill said he’s pleased with Mr. Comanda’s vision of enriching the students’ learning experiences through new technologies.
“[Mr. Comanda has] been working since the close of school and has made a big impression already,” Mr. Dill said.
Within the past school year, New Suffolk elementary student enrollment decreased by two students, from 18 to 16. The district’s total K-12 enrollment decreased by one student, from 29 to 28 students. The older students continue their education in the Southold system.
Southold expects to have roughly the same number of students as last year, nearly 890, though that number was still in flux as of late August.
“In general terms, enrollment is pretty stable, with 55 to 60 students per grade level,” Superintendent David Gamberg said at an Aug. 22 board meeting.
Teachers in the Southold and Greenport districts spent Aug. 28 at a meeting sponsored by Eastern Suffolk BOCES and the New York Institute of Technology to discuss new digital learning opportunities that they hope to unveil in the classroom this fall.
“The goal is to leverage technology in the service of quality learning engagement and not view technology as a substitute for effective teaching and learning practices,” said Mr. Gamberg.
Southold is working to increase the use of the Parent Portal, an Internet-based program that allows parents to view their children’s report cards and other education-related documents. Mr. Gamberg said that high school schedules were not sent out on time and the district made them available online instead.
“We’re rolling it out in various stages. We want at the very least to provide opportunities to send home quarterly reports [online],” he said.
The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District is concentrating on new state-mandated Common Core Learning Standards, which go into effect this year. The district will hold a meeting for parents to discuss the changes on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. in the high school library.
“The purpose of it is to try to involve more context-based reading and writing across the curriculum, whether in wood shop or social studies or English,” said Superintendent Jim McKenna.
Mr. McKenna said he expects enrollment to be up slightly over last year, with larger kindergarten and seventh-grade classes, though he said the district won’t have final enrollment numbers until after the first day of school.
Seventh-grade orientation will be held Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Back-to-school nights will be Thursday, Sept. 13, for seventh- and eighth-graders and Wednesday, Sept. 19, for grades 9 through 12, both at 7 p.m.
In the elementary school, parent night will be Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. for grades K through 2; Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. for grades 3 and 4; and Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. for grades 5 and 6.
The district is also holding a mandatory information night for the parents of student athletes at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, in the high school auditorium. At the meeting, coaches will discuss the sports that will be offered, the athletic handbook, concussion management and medical clearance policies.