Parents and students are counting the days until the start of the 2023-24 school year. Administrators, faculty and staff at districts across the North Fork have completed summer updates to buildings, grounds and curricula to prepare for students to return after Labor Day weekend.
Here is what you need to know as the new school year kicks off.
First day: Wednesday, Sept. 6
Over the summer, the Riverhead Central School District ramped up its security measures.
“We installed 125 new cameras,” said Superintendent Augustine Tornatore. “We also updated our camera software … put access control devices at targeted entries and exits throughout the district [and] door sensors to prevent unauthorized building entry and exit. At the middle school and high school, we are having ScholarChip, which is a web-based school safety system, which means … we’ll have a better way of really knowing which students are in the buildings [at] what time, to help us really tighten up security.”
Districtwide, parents will now use a new application, ParentSquare, which Dr. Tornatore said will “increase communication between the district and the community for transparency.”
At the elementary school, Riverhead will now offer a dual language program.
The district has also worked on easing transitions for students between its different schools. Over at Riverhead Middle School, which encompasses grades seven and eight, Dr. Tornatore said students will be “riding the wave” of the positive behavioral intervention strategies represented by the acronym “PRIDE” — present, respectful, independent, diverse and empowered — which they learned as fifth- and sixth-graders at Pulaski Street School. He added that this will “continue to make the middle school a more inviting environment for students, but also redirect any negative behavior.”
The superintendent also said some seventh-grade students and teachers will pilot an advisory program “to help those students who may need that additional support coming to the middle school from Pulaski.”
Riverhead High School will offer several new courses this year, including AP pre-calculus, AP English seminar, advanced guitar, video game design, an ENL computer class, Python computer programming, social studies research methods, a portfolio development course in art and technology, theater performance and production and an agricultural science class.
“We have the greenhouse, which is almost fully completed now … which will help our students who want to go into agricultural farming,” Dr. Tornatore said. “We have farmers in the community and we want to continue to support their success.”
First day: Wednesday, Sept. 6
Shoreham-Wading River made progress on various capital projects at the high school during the summer.
“We are fully renovating our high school art rooms … they’re going to be beautiful, modern, 21st-century vibrant art classrooms,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “It’s an art suite, [with] new pottery and ceramic wheel stations, a new CNC engraver as part of technology in the art classroom. We’re really looking forward to unveiling at the start of the school year for our high school students.”
The school also converted the high school’s auxiliary gym into a health and fitness center. Thanks to a donation from the Wildcats Athletic Club, the center will be open for students on Saturday mornings. Mr. Poole described it as “a state-of-the-art facility with modern workout equipment, flat panel TVs, branding with the high school logo on there, so really trying to engage students, and taking care of themselves and fitness.”
Work has also been completed on the high school’s driveway, HVAC system and roof. “You don’t have anything unless it’s dry, right?” Mr. Poole said.
“I want to be there when students walk into those spaces for the first time,” he added. “It was a lot of work to finish those spaces and get them to the finish line, so I kind of want to be there when students walk in for the first time, to see the smiles and the excitement on their faces.”
After their unified basketball program, open to students of differing abilities, proved successful, the school will offer a similar bowling program in the year ahead.
On the administrative side, the district added a second assistant principal position at the high school, which was filled by Daniel Ackerman, the former middle school assistant principal. His middle school position will be filled by Lauren Biscardi from the Huntington school district.
On the class and club side, Mr. Poole said teachers can now instruct students in outdoor learning environments districtwide. The high school’s technology program will include a drone unit, and the Future Farmers of America club will be engaged in a particularly sweet project this year.
“That club is going to be running an apiary program,” Mr. Poole said. “So we will have bees for honey farming; we have a facility set up for that with a shed, some fencing, we have the hives … I should have some Wildcat honey in the spring.”
First day: Tuesday, Sept. 5
Oysterponds is starting the 2023-24 school year with a new district superintendent, Justin Cobis. Mr. Cobis started on July 1 and is taking over for Richard Malone, who served as the district’s previous superintendent/principal for a decade.
Besides housekeeping work to the school building, including asbestos abatement, there was also plumbing work, along with adding shelving and furniture, Mr. Cobis said.
Students can look forward to a new science, technology, engineering and math lab created this year to enhance the STEM curriculum. Oysterponds former principal Jennifer Wissemann will lead the program and help align it with New York State standards. The school will continue to share a faculty member with the Greenport school district to be able to offer students Spanish classes.
The school’s staff went in for professional development on Aug. 29 and 30 to help implement a new math program called Into Math, an online and interactive curriculum resource bank, aligned with New York State standards.
“It will help us to help diagnose students and meet them at what levels they’re at for either academic intervention services or enrichment,” Mr. Cobis said.
The new superintendent noted that although Oysterponds’ enrollment isn’t large, with roughly 100 students in grades K through 6, the district is able to provide services that other districts don’t.
“While some might think that there are challenges, we take challenges and turn them into opportunities,” Mr. Cobis said.
First day: Thursday, Sept. 7
Greenport continues working hard to complete the $18 million bond project passed in 2019. Students will return to some new facilities and upgrades in various areas of the building, including a new elementary library and renovated bathrooms on the second and third floors. Students will also see entirely new lockers on the second and third floors, as well as new flooring in classrooms and hallways, according to Superintendent Marlon Small.
“Our children are coming back to very upgraded facilities, which we think will do well in terms of setting a different tone in terms of what our kids are learning in a more comfortable environment,” Mr. Small said.
The district broke ground and began construction on the new auxiliary gym last May. However, Mr. Small said that because new flooring and heating/air conditioning units have yet to be installed, the gym won’t be ready for use until about mid-October. Until then, students will continue to use the cafeteria/gymnasium on the first floor.
In terms of staff, the school has hired a new nurse, a new assistant director for special education and a new band teacher. The elementary school hired new teachers for kindergarten, third grade, special education and English as a new language.
First day: Tuesday, Sept. 5
This year, Southold Union Free School District is bolstering its academic intervention services.
“That’s for students who need additional support in reading or math,” Superintendent Dr. Anthony Mauro said. “We have that in our elementary school and we’re adding it to our middle school. We’ve always had some sort of iteration of it, now we’re adding it as a class. It’s a fluid class; students may go in and out as needed … If they need support they will be offered to be moved into it, and if they are performing on grade level they would exit out of it.”
For elementary school students, Dr. Mauro said the district will offer a new “comprehensive after-school Spanish program” for English-speaking students eager to learn another language. The district has also added a new two-year AP world history sequence for ninth- and 10th-graders.
The district has hired two English as a New Language teachers — one for elementary students and one for the high school — and two new music teachers — one for elementary and one for both schools. The high school recruited a new physical education teacher and a new family and consumer sciences teacher.
In addition, Southold is adopting a year-long social and emotional learning program. “The SEL scope and sequence will be a combination of topics from awareness of self and others, self-management, social skills, social awareness, self-care, and then within them there are different [concepts],” Dr. Mauro said. “Certain formal lessons will be delivered and everybody else in the district will know what the particular topic is.
“We’re very excited for a new year,” he said.
First day: Tuesday, Sept. 5
New Suffolk’s new superintendent, Joe Vasile-Cozzo, is taking over for Phil Kent, who retired earlier this year. Mr. Vasile-Cozzo has 32 years’ experience in education. He worked at Mattituck-Cutchogue school district as the physical education teacher for nine years, then at Center Moriches school district as athletic director for five years, followed by 16 years at East Hampton.
In addition to a new superintendent, the district also has two new Board of Education members, Brooke Dailey and Lisa Zissel.
The school building has undergone some minor renovations, including a project to weather seal the bricks around the building and a paint job to refresh the historic building’s appearance.
As superintendent, Mr. Vasile-Cozzo wants to provide as much support to the school’s staff and faculty as possible.
“We’re committed to giving the kids the best education possible and really support [the community] and their children,” Mr. Vasile-Cozzo said. “That’s really what my focus is going to be this year, is to make sure that happens.”
First day: Thursday, Sept. 7
Little tykes can look forward to some new playground equipment at Cutchogue East Elementary School this year.
“We are very excited … two new playgrounds were installed at Cutchogue East,” said district Superintendent Shawn Petretti. “The first was put in and installed by our partners at Just Kids. They leased some space for us for our pre-K program and through some grants that they received, they were able to put in a playground for our primary grades. Then, as part of our five-year plan, it was time to replace the old playground that we had there … We are excited about the new playground in that [it] is ADA compliant, wheelchair accessible and there are numerous activities within the playground for our students, different sensory stations and things like that.”
Mr. Petretti added that the PTA donated two gaga ball pits for elementary school students. For those who haven’t been to recess lately, gaga ball is a variation of dodgeball designed to be much safer and more inclusive for children of all abilities.
“It’s a new game that’s really getting a lot of momentum,” Mr. Petretti said. “We like it because it involves a lot of students at one time.”
Over at the high school, the new STEM wing will be complete by the time students walk through the doors. The section will boast facilities to house the school’s trade-based classes, including a new wood shop to host an Eastern Suffolk BOCES carpentry program that’s open to Mattituck-Cutchogue, Greenport and Southold students. The school is also offering new classes in Long Island history, and AP pre-calculus along with an AP capstone research course.
“It’s a project-based class for our upperclassmen that participated in our AP seminar class in 10th grade,” Mr. Petretti said.