The beginning of this school year marks the end of a longtime renovation project at the Riverhead Central School District.
Through the $78 million bond, approved by voters in 2011, Pulaski Street Elementary recently saw the addition of a hands-on science lab, a new cafeteria, new parent drop-off parking loop and refurbished classrooms throughout the building, Superintendent Nancy Carney said.
The Roanoke Avenue school building received a new three-story addition, bringing with it classrooms, a cafeteria, a new main office and an elevator.
Additionally, the district will soon have State Education Department approval to begin work on the new bus garage and facilities building, which it hopes to complete by next fall. Lastly, the new turf field at the high school should be completed in the next couple of weeks, Ms. Carney said.
“Students throughout our district are benefiting from these newly renovated spaces and I am very proud of the teaching and learning that is happening there,” Ms. Carney said, adding that over 40 new teachers were hired this year. “These teachers are bringing an enthusiasm to their classrooms that is complemented by the experience and wisdom of our more senior colleagues.”
Introduced at Phillips and Roanoke Avenue schools last year, all the K-4 buildings will fully implement the National Geographic Science, or “Nat Geo,” program. This is designed to “immerse students in the nature of science and hands-on inquiry while further promoting literacy skills,” Ms. Carney said.
In addition, the district recently partnered with Stony Brook University and is bringing in-service teachers to Phillips Avenue and the high school to assist English Language Learners in their mainstream classes.
New classes at the high school, available to all students, include robotics, Principles of Engineering, Baking and Pastry, Digital Film Making, Environmental Science, AP Computer Science and AP French Language and Culture.
Lastly, the district is taking a new approach to professional development by implementing instructional rounds for teachers, similar to the medical rounds model used to train physicians, and designed, Ms. Carney said, to “bring educators together to develop a collaborative learning environment with the goal of improving student learning experiences in our classrooms.”
The biggest change this school year is the start of new interim Superintendent Neil Lederer, who was appointed in June and officially began the position last Thursday. He said the Board of Education is in the process of hiring a permanent new superintendent, and hopes to have that person start July 1, 2017.
At the high school, an Advanced Placement Capstone program is being introduced this year. A new initiative created by the College Board, it’s designed to be comparable to the International Baccalaureate program used in other high schools across the country. The capstone program comprises two courses — AP Seminar and AP Research — that are “designed to complement and enhance the discipline-specific study in other AP courses,” the College Board website reads.
“It’s a more challenging program,” Mr. Lederer said. “It’s more involved and uses more varied learning services … it’s a number of courses that will take the high school to the next step.”
This school year also marks the first time the district has been involved with the Tri-State Consortium, a group of public school districts in the tri-state area that share tactics, strategies, issues and studies being conducted within their schools, Mr. Lederer said.
“It’s all in the idea of advancing education and sharing thoughts with colleagues in other districts,” he said.
Finally, the district is entering its second year of a co-teaching model for K-12 classrooms, which calls for 30 to 40 percent students with special needs and 60 to 70 percent general education students. Each classroom has both a general education and a specialized teacher.
Mr. Lederer added he’s excited to begin his first and likely only school year at SWR, especially after visiting Albert G. Prodell Middle School on the first day of school Wednesday.
“I was so impressed,” he said. “Students were happy, with a smile on their face, and knew exactly what to do. And our faculty was so child-centered, it was really heartwarming to see.”
Top photo: Cafeteria worker Sue Vega cleans new stainless kitchen equipment at Pulaski Street School in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)