Shoreham-Wading River enters the 2015-16 school year on the back of substantial construction and renovations across the district, some of which are ongoing, and Superintendent Steven Cohen is excited for students to reap the benefits of those changes — which will include not only more learning opportunities, but also fewer detours around the high school building.
Students started classes Sept. 1, about a week ahead of most other area districts, and Mr. Cohen was pleased that opening day went smoothly despite a summer of transformation.
“There are a lot of things coming together,” he said.
Most of the changes, from building modernizations to new athletic facilities, are part of a $48.5 million bond project that voters approved in January by a wide margin.
The high school and middle school both have new roofs. At the high school, 16 classrooms have been completely renovated. Ten of those are science labs equipped with large work tables and stools and two are computer labs fully stocked with new equipment.
Two of the district’s more high-profile projects are visible from the school’s parking lot — the cranes and piles of dirt are hard to miss. Construction is currently underway on new tennis courts and a new turf field, which will be named in honor of Thomas Cutinella, the SWR football player who died last fall after collapsing during a game.
Mr. Cohen said the courts should be completed in October and the field should be ready by Thanksgiving.
The ongoing construction means the Wildcats will play all their games at schools away from Shoreham as they defend the Rutgers Trophy, although three games will be played at nearby Rocky Point High School to give the feeling of home.
But perhaps the most significant change this year will be felt in the high school hallways: Passage of the bond project enabled the district to construct sweeping second-story additions that connect all areas of that floor, thereby reducing foot traffic on the ground level.
“Now that these hallways connect so many things, kids don’t have to walk down to the first floor to get to a different area of the second floor,” Mr. Cohen said. “It has reduced the density of kids in the hallways by 50 percent, I’d say. It’s just amazing.”
Beyond the bond project, Mr. Cohen said the district is not implementing any new programs. Rather, it will focus on further refining programs that have been launched in the past few years, he said.
Those programs include the principal’s academy, which helps children facing unique challenges finish high school, and new professional development systems for teachers that involve meeting for one hour a week rather than three full days during the year.
“[This year] we will be getting better at what we’ve been doing,” Mr. Cohen said. “It’s intensifying a lot of the programs we’ve started over the last several years. We’ve got more than enough to digest and make sense of without taking on too much more … There are a lot of good things going on. Now we’ve just got to implement them.”
Mr. Cohen also noted that six additional special education teachers were hired across the elementary and middle schools in an effort to reduce the number of special education students in inclusion classes.
The district applied last year to be a member of the AP Capstone program, which encourages students to conduct research and participate in a seminar over several years of high school. Mr. Cohen also said they hope to begin offering AP microeconomics and AP Spanish in 2016.
Total enrollment dropped from 2,404 last year to 2,312 this year, a change of 92 students.
This will also be the second year that the district operates four schools instead of five, having closed Briarcliff Elementary in June 2014. As a result of that closure, Miller Avenue Elementary School now houses kindergarten through second-grade students and Wading River School houses third- through fifth-grade students. The future of the Briarcliff building has not yet been determined.