Education

Back to School 2022: Return to normal as districts prepare to welcome back students

There’s just days to go until schools reopen in districts across the North Fork, where administrators anticipate an academic year that will restore a sense of normalcy for students after nearly three years of pandemic disruptions.

Though the omicron subvariant BA.5 continues to cause a wave of new infections, officials expect to open schools with fewer pandemic restrictions in place.

Most area districts will open before Labor Day on Thursday, Sept. 1, before the Labor Day weekend, while others are set to begin Tuesday, Sept. 6 due to differences in instructional calendars and teacher contracts. 

Here’s what else you should know as the new school year begins:

Mattituck-Cutchogue

First day of school: Thursday, Sept. 1.

What’s new: Several new course offerings are available for high school students, from an AP computer science course to an astronomy elective. Due to the popularity of technical courses like welding and small engine repair, wood shop class is also making a comeback this year.

Last year, the district was able to introduce an after-school program at Cutchogue East Elementary School thanks to increased federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. 

“It was very well attended and we’ve seen a very positive impact on student performance as a result of that,” Superintendent Shawn Petretti said, adding that government funding has allowed the district to continue the program this year. It’s something school officials are actively discussing funding through the budget in the future, once that funding source runs out.

Crews have completed installation of new gym flooring at both the secondary and elementary schools as well as carpet, flooring and roof repairs at Cutchogue East. Repairs are underway on the high school track, which is used by both the school and general public. New junior high hallway lockers were installed and a more efficient temperature control system was put in place, the superintendent said.

The finishing touches are also being put on a much-anticipated walking fitness path at Cut-chogue East, which will permit outdoor activities year round. “We’re looking for as many opportunities as we can to get the kids outside and active,” Mr. Petretti said.

Who’s new: At the administrative level, there are no changes to building principals. The district will welcome a new director of technology, Kelly Urraro, as well as a new business official, Charles Delargy, this year.

What else to know: Mr. Petretti said he’s looking forward to a more traditional start to the school year with no pandemic guidelines in place. “It’s refreshing,” he said. “The beginning of the school year is always a really exciting time and it was such a big thing hanging over us each year.

“We do have some children and teachers that choose to wear their masks and we completely honor that,” Mr. Petretti said, also noting that the district will follow state guidelines should they change and will continue to monitor local COVID-19 cases daily.

New Suffolk

First day of school: Thursday, Sept. 1.

What’s new: District superintendent and principal Phil Kent said that, besides a fresh coat of paint inside the schoolhouse, students can look forward this year to a new weather station, which will allow them to track the weather across the East End, and an aquaponics growing kit.

“We’ll grow the plants during the school year and then look to transition them outdoors in the springtime,” Mr. Kent said. “Especially out here on the East End, with all the agriculture, I think kids should know that they can develop a self-sustaining ecosystem indoors, and then take it outdoors in the springtime and see the fruits and harvest their fruits before the school year ends.”

Who’s new: The school plans to hire a few special area teachers this school year. They will be hiring a physical education teacher, a Spanish teacher and a music teacher.

What else to know: Open enrollment for the district is available throughout the year.

“We just want to make sure everybody knows we have open enrollment throughout the year for in-district students as well as any out-of-district students,” Mr. Kent said.

Southold

First day of school: Thursday, Sept. 1.

What’s new: District Superintendent Anthony Mauro said he’s looking forward to “a return to normalcy” during the start of this school year.

The district made a concerted effort to implement new classes and electives for students. Mr. Mauro said the district took surveys and, based on the results, will be offering classes in mythology, coding and video game design, cosmic catastrophes and natural disasters, criminal justice and senior seminar.

Who’s new: The district will welcome two new staff members: Master Sgt. Juan Ibanez for the ROTC program and Rosemarie Messina as family and consumer science teacher. 

What else to know: Aside from general maintenance, the district has made improvements to the air conditioning and ventilation system in the auditorium.

The district also added three tennis courts, which were mostly funded through grants. Some work on ventilation and access control systems was also done at the elementary school. Finally, a former guidance wing was transformed into a college and career suite for the school social worker, psychologist and two guidance counselors along with the district’s transition and career coordinator, Nicole Helf.

Greenport

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

What’s new: Superintendent Marlon Small said Greenport has been busy over the summer preparing for the new school year. Besides preparing new facilities, the district has been investing in new learning resources for the district’s students. 

“Not only are we taking care of the physical infrastructure, but we are also taking care of the things that are going on in the building in terms of getting our students updated learning materials, such as textbooks and resources that will support their learning,” Mr. Small said.

According to Mr. Small, new district facilities that students can look forward to as they start the school year include new bathrooms on the first floor, a new home and careers classroom and renovations in the art room and high school library, which will be getting new furniture as well, Mr. Small said.

Who’s new: The district will welcome seven new teachers for 2022-23, in areas including math, special education , as well as a new school nurse, Christina Mantzopoulos.

What else to know: The district broke ground on its capital project in late May. The $18 million project was approved in December 2019 and includes plans for construction of a new auxiliary gymnasium, and a new elementary library.

Other budgeted renovations that have already been completed include work on exterior masonry, girls and boys locker rooms and installation of new security and public address systems.

The district will also be renovating the elementary school’s “little playground”

The district’s Board of Education approved the playground renovation at its June 21 meeting. According to the resolution, the board will be using $190,000 from their repair reserve funds will be used for the project.

The renovation was recommended by the New York State Insurance Reciprocal, the district’s insurance carrier, due to safety issues cited in its most recent report, according to the resolution.

At the latest Board of Education meeting in August, the community was advised that the wood chips that are currently there would be replaced. The playground won’t be ready for the start of school but it will be done early on in the school year, Mr. Small said.

“We’re looking forward to starting the school year on just a great footing,” Mr. Small said. “This is a great time for Greenport,we’re looking forward to it.”

Oysterponds

First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6, for K-6 students.. Students in the pre-K program start Monday, Sept. 12. 

What’s new: Superintendent Richard Malone said that a variety of projects has been undertaken to prepare the district’s buildings and grounds for a new school year. 

The parking lots and driveways are being repaved and a new basketball court and tennis court will be ready for the opening of school, he said.

Who’s new: The district has hired Deanna Zicchinelli as a pre-K teacher to replace Jenny Schoenstein, who retired. The district also upgraded guidance counselor Veronica Stelzer from part-time to full-time status. Jean DeLorme also joined the staff as a new teaching assistant.

What else to know: Mr. Malone said he looks forward to starting the new school year with fewer COVID-19 restrictions for children and teachers. 

“We are very excited to be able to open school without the restrictions of COVID,” he said, adding that students can expect all after-school activities to return, as well as field trips that are currently in the planning stages.

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