Classes are back in session in the Huntington School District’s eight individual buildings. The opening bell rang early Wednesday morning as principals welcomed more than 4,500 students for the 2017/18 school year. Classrooms were buzzing all day as teachers reviewed their policies and procedures and taught their first lessons.
“Today was characterized by many smiling faces and so many students who were excited to return to school,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Such excitement from the students clearly energized everyone in district. Thank you to the students on Jefferson School’s Route 5 for brightening my morning and making my first bus trip this year a great one!”
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. Several important renovation and repair projects were also completed. New teachers and support staff members have been hired to replace those who retired or left to pursue other ventures.
Huntington High School’s day began with a full-school assembly where Student Government President Lindsay Saginaw, Assistant Principals Gamal Smith and Joseph DiTroia and Deans of Students Ronald Wilson, Robert Gilmor III and Paul Caleca all took turns addressing the 1,540 member strong student body.
Jefferson Principal Valerie Capitulo-Saide
eagerly welcomes students for a new year.
“We all felt fortunate to have a group of students with us who are so excited to be here,” Principal Brenden Cusack said. “The atmosphere was truly a celebration of great things to come during the school year and the opportunities that await. I am always tremendously impressed at what an amazing group of students we have when we come together as a full school. And yes, the air conditioning was a tremendous improvement over past years!”
Once the assembly had wrapped up, high school students collected their agenda books and headed to first period classes. “Students hit the ground running as if we never left for summer break,” Mr. Cusack said. “It is certainly an exciting time at Huntington High School on the first day of school!”
There were many poignant interludes during opening day. “On multiple occasions this morning, I personally witnessed upperclassmen helping freshmen find their way around and help them get acclimated on their first day,” Mr. Cusack said. “This is so nice to see when students are there for each other, without the need for prompting by any of the adults. They just do it because that's who they are. To me, that’s what Huntington High School is all about.”
Hundreds of parents turned out at the district’s elementary school buildings to snap photos and welcome their children off buses as they pulled up for the first day. A few tears were shed here and there by the youngsters and some parents could also be seen wiping dry their own eyes.
There were a handful of transportation snafus that district officials sought to address in short order. Huntington Coach Corp. tracked buses to determine where the problems were occurring and worked to solve them almost on the spot.
J. Taylor Finley Middle School welcomed 735 seventh and eighth graders. “This was a very good opening day with only a few transportation related problems,” Principal John Amato said. “The students looked handsome and eager to begin. Aside from the humidity and threat of showers, it was a very good opening day.”
Finley faculty and staff members were out in hallways to greet students and help them find rooms and lockers. Once everyone was settled and the morning announcements had been read over the public address system, teachers quickly got down to business.
The district’s new faculty members participated in two days of orientation activities in late August that were designed to help them get off to a smooth start. Teachers were required to report to their buildings this past Tuesday for a series of meetings, but many began arriving days in advance to review class lists, arrange classrooms, organize books and lesson plans and informally meet with colleagues.
“Despite the weather, Woodhull Intermediate School had a great first day, with smiling faces of both new and returning students,” Principal Traci Roethel said. “Teachers were excited to welcome students into their classrooms. There were building tours for the new fifth grade classes and lots of excitement for sixth graders, who get to change classes this year for different subject areas. 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 tracking 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 frantic push to put the finishing touches on each building. Work included polishing hallway floors, delivering boxes of supplies to classrooms, prepping the grounds and setting up cafeteria tables so they were ready to accommodate an influx of thousands of students.
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.
Southdown Primary School students were typically enthusiastic on Wednesday. “It was such a pleasure to welcome students through the doors of Southdown today,” Principal Scott Oshrin said. “I especially loved greeting our little ones in kindergarten. The students and teachers had a terrific day getting to know each other. I look forward to the entire community coming out on Friday night for our block party. It is an incredible event to show our Southdown spirit and kick the school year off the right way.”
Jefferson Primary School students thoroughly enjoyed their first day back from summer vacation. “I was delighted to welcome new and returning students today,” Principal Valerie Capitulo-Saide said. “Our morning arrival went seamlessly well with students coming off of their respective buses into the building. Teachers and staff welcomed students at their beautifully decorated doorways and they didn’t skip a beat getting learning underway. Students received instruction in literacy and mathematics to kick off the school year. I look forward to a wonderful school year filled with exciting learning opportunities for all!”
Students at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School and Flower Hill and Washington Primary Schools didn’t miss a beat either. Youngsters in those buildings went about their routines as if they had never left last June. Students quickly settled into their classes and appeared happy to be reunited with their classmates after the long summer vacation. Principals Donna Moro, Paula Nickerson and Marsha Neville were out and about their buildings throughout the day, handling details small and large, greeting students and parents and helping to make sure opening day went as smoothly as possible.
The new school year continues a long history of education in the Huntington community. The first teacher was hired on February 11, 1657 and the first schoolhouse was erected in 1660. That same tradition continues today with the start of the 2017/18 school year.