Huntington School District’s eight individual buildings opened their doors on Thursday morning and welcomed back about 4,500 students for the 2021/22 school year. Classrooms were buzzing all day as teachers reviewed their policies and procedures and taught their first lessons.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, various health and safety related modifications to traditional practices were in place, but no one seemed to mind any of them. Almost everyone was just happy to have in-person classes and activities.
Rather than holding a district-wide convocation of faculty and support staff last week, Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky visited each building and spoke about plans for the new school year. It was a change in practice necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to limit a gathering that could draw together 700 or more employees.
Once the first bell rang on Thursday, students quickly fell into their normal school day routines. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Few complaints were heard as students of all ages were happy to see friends that have been absent from their daily lives for the past two months.
“Despite the challenges we have had to address and overcome in recent months, there is still very little that is more exciting and captivating than the first day of school and the fresh start to a new year,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “We were beyond thrilled to welcome our students yesterday, share a true sense of optimism with them and set a positive tone for 2021/22!”
During the summer months, new textbooks, workbooks, library books, computers, SMART Boards and computer software were delivered to district buildings and readied 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.
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 large number of students being transported to and from their homes, it is not surprising there were some scattered morning and afternoon bus miscues. 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 district’s new faculty members participated in orientation activities in late August that were designed to help the teachers get off to a fast start. All teachers were required to report to their buildings last Wednesday and Thursday 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.
Huntington High School athletic teams have been practicing for several weeks and some have already played regular season games. Teams at J. Taylor Finley Middle School kick-off this week. Nurses spent recent days organizing their offices and quickly started fielding phone calls from parents. Principals have been keeping track of last minute changes to the list of students enrolled in their respective building.
The buildings and grounds department spent the final days of August in a frenzied effort 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 rooms and cafeterias in a way that helps keep students properly distanced.
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 made immediate use of the items.