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Back to School 2022: Return to normal as districts prepare to welcome back students

There’s just days to go until schools reopen in districts across the North Fork, where administrators anticipate an academic year that will restore a sense of normalcy for students after nearly three years of pandemic disruptions.

Though the omicron subvariant BA.5 continues to cause a wave of new infections, officials expect to open schools with fewer pandemic restrictions in place.

Most area districts will open before Labor Day on Thursday, Sept. 1, before the Labor Day weekend, while others are set to begin Tuesday, Sept. 6 due to differences in instructional calendars and teacher contracts. 

Here’s what else you should know as the new school year begins:


First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 6.

What’s new: As Superintendent Augustine Tornatore begins his second full year leading the district, he’s hoping for a return to normal for students, staff and families.

“I don’t want students to have to worry about anything but their grades,” he said. 

Mr. Tornatore has also prioritized getting three schools —Roanoke, Pulaski Street and Riverhead Middle School — removed from a state’s target list for improvements this year.

Students in each building will be greeted with new “maker spaces,” where they can hone their skills and learn about coding, electricity and other STEM subjects. The district will also partner with Rocket Drones, a STEM drone racing program that will teach students about emerging career opportunities.

The middle and high schools will both move to a nine-period day, allowing for more than three dozen new elective courses, ranging from virtual enterprise to computer repair and sports marketing.

The district and PPS offices have moved to new locations on Harrison and Osborn avenues and eight new portable classrooms at the high school will be ready for the first day of school. “This will help alleviate some congestion,” Mr. Tornatore said.

A new security guard booth was installed at the rear entrance from the high school parking lot as an added security measure and a portable building that will be used for the alternative school program was refurbished. At Pulaski Street, a centralized IT suite was created and the main office is being updated.

Bathrooms were refurbished at the high school, Pulaski Street Phillips Avenue and Riley Avenue elementary schools and Aquebogue Elementary received sidewalk and landscaping improvements.

Mr. Tornatore said the district is also making improvements to cafeterias at the high school, Phillips Avenue and Riley Avenue after voters approved a proposition in May.

Who’s new: Stephen Hudson, former principal at Riverhead Middle School, will move to Phillips Avenue to replace recently retired Debra Rodgers. 

Joseph Pesqueira is the new principal at Riverhead Middle School and Colleen O’Hara (who is not related to RHS principal Sean O’Hara) is the new assistant middle school principal.

Kenneth Coard, who was hired as dean of secondary students last year, will be focused primarily at the middle school to offer additional support, Mr. Tornatore said.

Laura Arcuri, assistant principal at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, will also be spending time as an assistant principal at Pulaski Street.

The district has a new STEM director in Jeannine Campbell. Maria Casamassa is the new humanities director.

What else to know: A federal program that made school breakfasts and lunches free to all students regardless of family income throughout the pandemic has ended, but will continue in Riverhead after the district applied for and obtained funding to continue the program.

Shoreham-Wading River

First day of school: Thursday, Sept. 1.

What’s new: A nine-period day will be implemented at the middle school this year with additional course offerings. Music ensembles including band, chorus and orchestra will now meet during a regular school-day period, rather than before school. “This is really going to ensure that all students have opportunities to explore and discover technology, art and music,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said.

Additional electives, including ceramics, digital photography and mythology, will also be introduced at the high school and a library curriculum will return to the elementary schools after the district hired a shared librarian who will work between both buildings. In addition, two more nurses have been added to enhance district health services for students and provide extended day coverage for after school programming.

Several capital projects have been underway in Shoreham-Wading River this summer, including ceiling tile replacements and bathroom renovations at Albert G. Prodell Middle School and roof repairs at the middle school, high school wrestling center and Wading River Elementary School.

The district also broke ground on outdoor learning pavilions at each of the four schools, which officials hope will be completed this fall. “One of the things we learned from the pandemic is the importance and joy that learning outdoors brings to students of all ages,” Mr. Poole said.

The district received additional grant funding to provide 75 universal pre-K seats this school year and has partnered with SCOPE Educational Services to run programming from unused classrooms at Wading River Elementary.

Mr. Poole said he plans to work this year on a long-term plan for the program.

“I’m excited about the school year. This is the first summer where all of us — parents, staff, administrators — haven’t been waiting for last-minute COVID-19 guidance and worrying about how that might impact the opening of schools,” he said. “This summer, focusing on how we normally prepare for a school year … it’s been refreshing.”

Who’s new: The district has hired a new director of facilities, Ernesto Rosini, after former director Angelo Andreotti retired earlier this year.

Other things to know: The middle school day will be extended to accommodate the ninth period, with school commencing at 8:02 a.m. and concluding at 2:30 p.m. This will also impact elementary school students due to the busing schedule, and their new school day will run from 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., changed from 8:55 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. last year. The high school schedule remains unchanged.