School bells will soon be ringing

Senol Music, 11, right, and Nick McCusker, 11, check out their lockers during an Aug. 18 orientation for incoming Long River Middle School sixth-graders. The first day of school for Region 16 and Naugatuck is next week. - LARAINE WESCHLER

Summer is drawing to an end and it’s time to start sharpening pencils, complete summer reading assignments, and dig out that old book bag from under the bed.

Area students are heading back to school next week and their schools are preparing to receive them.

Amongst Long River Middle School sixth-graders, new lockers were a big deal during orientation day Aug. 18.

When asked what he was looking forward to at his new school, incoming sixth-grader Senol Music, 11, said “opening my locker.”

Music and his fellow classmates were busy practicing opening their lockers and decorating them with mirrors, miniature whiteboards, and photos.

Long River Principal Jayne Lanphear said learning to open their locker is the first big obstacle students face when moving up from elementary school. Students will also have to find their way around a larger school.

“What’s really exciting, especially for the sixth graders, is to really learn to navigate the building. … It really eases the anxiety of coming to a new school,” Lanphear said.

She said sixth-graders see a lot of their old friends at the middle school, but also make new friends from other schools. She said student enrollment is about the same as last year, with 600 students.

“I think middle school is a huge change for kids,” Lanphear said. “They just mature so much in that time frame.”

At the beginning of this year, artist Joanne Moran will be working collaboratively with students and staff to create a mural to hang in the cafeteria, according to Associate Principal Kristin Bernier.

“This school does look exciting, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Kaylee Walsh, 10, who will begin sixth grade next week.

The first-period bell will ring for Region 16 students Sept. 1, but the district’s 11 new teachers had their orientation Aug. 24, with a back-to-school breakfast Aug. 29. Teachers will work on professional development Aug. 30 and 31 before welcoming students to their classrooms.

At Woodland Regional High School, enrollment is similar to last year, though students were still registering as of press time.

“Every new year’s a new start,” Woodland Principal Arnold Frank said.

This year, the school is emphasizing getting teachers to ask higher level questions to spur more challenging discussions and engage critical thinking skills in students, according to Frank.

“Students should be prepared to express themselves verbally,” he said.

Naugatuck is kicking off the year with an education fair Aug. 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the Town Green. In case of rain the fair will be held at the Naugatuck Senior Center. “That really is the beginning of getting people excited about coming back,” Assistant Superintendent Brigitte Crispino said.

Each school will have a display to offer information to parents and many teachers will be there to provide snapshot of events in the coming year, Crispino said.

She said staff would likely answer a lot of procedural questions.

“A lot of it is very nuts and bolts,” Crispino said.

She said the fair gives children the opportunity to begin thinking about school and parents a chance to see the school district and the staff in a non-educational setting.

After the fair, teachers will be welcomed back at the high school Aug. 29 and undergo professional development Aug. 30 in preparation for students to return Aug. 31.

“We’re ready to go,” Crispino said.

At Naugatuck High School, a new principal is ushering in the new year with some new policies and procedures.

Naugatuck High Principal Jan Saam said this year all employees and students will wear identification badges throughout the school day.

“I’m doing that to help with the safety of all in this building,” Saam said.

She said the badges will also allow students to get into all home sporting events free.

Saam said another emphasis this year is making sure students come to school on time.

Students will get three consequence-free passes per semester for tardiness, after which students who come late will be held until the start of the next full class.

“I really want to preserve class time. I want to minimize disruptions and interruptions to teaching. … I hold class time sacred,” Saam said.

The new policy will replace the old policy of giving tardy students detentions, which didn’t change student behavior, Saam said.

From now on, when the bell rings for a new period, classes will lock and late students must report to the dean for a pass to class.

“You need to be prompt, you need to be on time, and that’s an important habit to learn,” Saam said.

Starting in October, there will be a new advisory period at the high school every Wednesday.

The advisory period will focus on skills that students need to be successful, including study skills, time management, interpersonal skills, exploring career options, and working on a capstone project, Saam said.

Saam plans to continually revise and update the curriculum for advisory to reflect the needs of students. Teachers will be trained to be advisors during their professional development day.

Another change this year is to the lunch schedule, which will only be two periods; a 20 minute lunch opposite a 20 minute study hall.

During the study hall, students may sign out to go to a content lab to get extra help in a particular subject or visit the new career center, which will have information about opportunities after high school, jobs in high school, and options for college.

“I’m hoping students will take advantage of the time opposite lunch to get help, get enrichment, or just use it as a quiet study and get their homework done,” Saam said.

Also new this year is a branch of the Naugatuck Savings Bank opening in the high school cafeteria. The ribbon cutting ceremony is Sept. 7, with the bank officially opening Sept. 12.

Saam said her overall focus for this year is school climate.

“I really want the message to be that school is important,” Saam said.

Saam said enrollment this year is holding steady at about 1350, but registration was Wednesday after press time.

Saam said teachers are excited and expect this to be a great year.

“All the teachers are in place. All the students have a schedule. We are ready. … There’s kind of a really good buzz around the school,” Saam said.