Huntington Schools Enjoy Enthusiastic Opening

A first grade class at Washington School posed for a first day photo.

September 08, 2016

Huntington School District’s eight individual buildings swung open their doors on Wednesday morning and welcomed back more than 4,500 students for the 2016/17 school year. Classrooms were buzzing all day as teachers reviewed their policies and procedures and taught their first lessons.

A district-wide convocation of faculty and support staff was held on Tuesday in the Huntington High School auditorium. Huntington School Board President Thomas DiGiacomo and Superintendent James W. Polansky spoke about their high hopes for the new school year.

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Southdown Principal Scott Oshrin greeted students in a hallway.

“The excitement of the district’s opening day is not only experienced by students,” Mr. Polansky said. “The anticipation of a great school year is definitely felt by staff as well, including the superintendent. I had the privilege of beginning my day at a seamless high school opening and welcoming assembly, followed by a terrific bus ride with my Washington Primary friends on route six. As the day continued, I was so pleased to witness smiles on the faces of students throughout the district and their genuine enthusiasm in returning to school. A truly enjoyable first day!”

HHS “Full of Excitement”

During the summer months, new textbooks, workbooks, library books, computers, SMART Boards and computer software were delivered to district buildings and are ready for use by teachers and students. Numerous renovation and repair projects were also completed. New teachers have been hired to replace those who retired or left to pursue other ventures.

“Our first day at Huntington High School was full of excitement,” Principal Brenden Cusack said.  “We kicked off our day with a full-school assembly where the administration, deans and student government president addressed the faculty and student body. Our focus was on getting involved with clubs and activities and promoting kindness as we delve into the new year. We also covered a number of housekeeping items and reminders for students. The energy was palpable as our kids moved on to their first period classes. It’s great to see everyone back in action!”

Many parents turned out at the four primary school buildings to snap photos and welcome their children off buses as they pulled up for the first day. Surprisingly few tears were shed by the youngsters, although some parents could be seen wiping their own eyes dry.

Considering the massive number of students being transported to and from their homes, it is not surprising there were some scattered bus problems. District officials sought to quickly address the issues as soon as they became aware of them, working with Huntington Coach Corp. to find immediate solutions.

“The first day of school went off without a hitch” Southdown Primary School Principal Scott Oshrin said. “The children entered their classrooms ready for an outstanding 2016/17 school year.  Our new kindergarten friends have been smiling all day long. I was pleased to hand deliver our fall principal and PTA book choice, A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley to every classroom this morning.  It’s been a wonderful first day.”

“Frenzy of Activity” at Finley

J. Taylor Finley Middle School welcomed more than 700 seventh and eighth graders on Wednesday. “The first day started with a frenzy of activity,” Finley Principal John Amato said. “Students hustled in with smiles on their faces, greeting old friends and moving to their homerooms. The staff was in the hallways greeting students and helping new students find their way. After solving several small typical problems, the day started with the Pledge of Allegiance and that’s how we kicked off the 2016/17 school year.”

The district’s new faculty members participated in orientation activities during August that were designed to help the teachers get off to a fast start. All teachers were required to report to their buildings this past Tuesday for a series of meetings, but most started arriving days in advance to review class lists, arrange classrooms, organize books and lesson plans and meet informally with colleagues.

“We enjoyed a great opening at Woodhull Intermediate School,” Principal Traci Roethel said. “The students were all smiles as they entered the building this morning ready to start another school year. It was wonderful to see the returning students as well as the faces of the fifth graders, who are excited about their new school. There weren’t any issues. Everything went as planned. It was really a great day.”

Huntington High School athletic teams have been practicing for several weeks and have already played regular season games. Teams at J. Taylor Finley Middle School kick-off this week. Nurses spent this past Tuesday organizing their offices and immediately began fielding phone calls from parents. Principals have been keeping track of last minute changes to the list of students enrolled in their respective building.

“We had a happy first day at Jefferson Primary School,” Principal Valerie Capitulo Saide said. “The morning went smoothly with students safely arriving on the buses. The teachers, staff and I greeted all of the students outside on the blacktop. We played music and the teachers and I performed a welcome dance for the students.”

Buildings were Sparkling

The buildings and grounds department spent the final days of August in a frantic race to put the finishing touches on each building. Work included polishing hallway floors, delivering boxes of supplies to classrooms, prepping the grounds, painting and setting up cafeteria tables so they were ready to accommodate an influx of thousands of students.

“The cafeterias were bustling on this opening day,” Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Acker said. “The students were excited to see what new food items would be served as well as looking forward to their personal favorites. Students at Woodhull were excited to find out that they’ll no longer be offered frozen pizza, but instead freshly made whole wheat crust pizza. It was a huge success and 24 pies were consumed. Student Appreciation Day was held at all four primary schools as well as Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. Students that bought lunch received a ‘special dessert.’ At Finley, we continued offering many popular choices and at the high school students will soon have a highly anticipated healthy ‘grab and go’ station.” 

Getting eight cafeterias up and running was no easy task. “While most of us were just getting up to greet the day the food service employees were already in their buildings preparing to welcome back staff and students,” Ms. Acker said. “They have been very busy preparing nutritious meals so students can be focus on their studies. At their conference day meeting on Tuesday they proudly referred to themselves as a family and were very excited to be back to work.” 

Bus Drivers Completed 138 Routes

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Jefferson School students were a happy group on Wednesday morning.

District executives were pleased that threatening skies never resulted in heavy rains. “Bus drivers completed over 138 routes today,” Ms. Acker said. “Though, as with any first day, there needs to be a little tweaking with some of the times, all of our precious students arrived happily and safely to their buildings. There is nothing like the sight of excited school children disembarking from their buses and running to greet their friends, principals and the many staff members they come in contact with on a daily basis. Today was the start of what will be another awesome year in the Huntington School District.”

Technology staff members were diligent in prepping rooms and equipment across the district for teacher and student use on the first day. Faculty members were pleased and plan to make immediate use of the gear.

Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School students were enthusiastic on opening day. “Our students arrived with smiles on their faces,” first year Principal Donna Moro said. “It was wonderful to see our hallways brimming with activity. Our staff orchestrated a smooth organized start to our school year. We are all looking forward to a great year.”

Students at Flower Hill and Washington Primary Schools didn’t miss a beat either. Youngsters in those buildings went about their business as if they never left last June. Students settled into their classes quickly and were happy to be reunited with their classmates after the long summer vacation. Principals Marlon Small and Marsha Neville were out and about their buildings throughout the day, addressing details small and large, greeting students and parents and helping to make sure opening day went as smoothly as possible.

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Jefferson School students were a happy group on Wednesday morning.
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Southdown Principal Scott Oshrin received a hug from an arriving student.
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Washington School first graders were a happy bunch of youngsters.