Region 16 ready for a new school year

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Woodland Regional High School rising senior Jeffrey Lauck, left, leads incoming freshmen Christopher Lauck and Matt Hicks on a tour of the high school during Aug. 27. –LUKE MARSHALL
Woodland Regional High School rising senior Jeffrey Lauck, left, leads incoming freshmen Christopher Lauck and Matt Hicks on a tour of the high school during Aug. 27. –LUKE MARSHALL

REGION 16 — Summer is coming to an end sooner rather than later for Region 16 students.

The first day of school for Region 16, schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, is Tuesday. The school day begins at 7:35 a.m. at Woodland Regional High School followed by Long River Middle School at 8:05 a.m. and the elementary schools at 8:45 p.m.  

Incoming freshmen received an early, inside glimpse of Woodland as members of the student council led tours of the school this week.

Emily Polito, a senior and student council member, said tours were given to seven groups of incoming freshmen within the first hour and a half on Aug. 27.

Polito said the orientation is a good opportunity for incoming students to see Woodland, get over any anxiety of entering a new school and learn about extracurricular activities.

“When I was a freshman I was nervous about getting lost,” Polito said. “It’s important to make them comfortable.”

On Aug. 27, incoming freshmen Matt Hicks and Ariana Sherwood were among a handful of students touring the school.

 “[The orientation] is a good overview of the school,” Hicks said. “You have to know where your classes are.”

Hicks said he is looking forward to new experiences in high school.

“You get a fresh start. I’m excited for that,” Hicks said.

Sherwood said she is looking forward to playing tennis once she starts at the high school.

As with the start any school year, there are a number of new faces and changes that will greet students. Among the new faces is Kurt Ogren, Woodland’s principal.

Ogren, 44, of Seymour was hired this month to replace former Principal Arnold Frank. 

 “I’m looking forward to every day. I’m passionate about education,” said Ogren in an interview after he was hired. “I’m looking forward to meeting new students and staff. I’m looking forward to building a school full of leaders.”

New administrators will also be coming to Long River Middle School and Community School early into the school year as well.

Kristin Bernier, the former assistant principal at Long River, recently took the principal job at Thomaston Center School in Thomaston, while Community School Principal Joseph Nuzzo plans to resign at the end of October. The Board of Education approved his resignation at its meeting Wednesday night.  

Superintendent of Schools Tim James said the board is in the process of finding Bernier’s replacement and will determine how to replace Nuzzo. Community and Algonquin schools are scheduled to merge into the new Prospect Elementary School when it opens in 2015.

When asked what else is new in the district for the 2013-14 school year, James pointed to a number of course changes at Long River.

The middle school is implementing an exploratory world language program for sixth-graders in Spanish and Italian using the language-learning software Rosetta Stone, James said.

“We’re very excited about that,” James said.

French has been discontinued at the middle school as well, James said, due to declining enrollment. With the prevalence of Spanish in society today, particularly in the media, James said more and more students were taking Spanish classes at the middle school.

“Students were kind of naturally signing up for it,” he said.

Incoming eighth-graders, who took French last year, will be given the option to take French using Rosetta Stone, James said. The software will also be used for high level language classes at Woodland, he added.

A new technology course will also be offered at Long River this year that will focus on graphic design and digital media, James said. The class will serve as a precursor to technology courses at Woodland, he said.

The new year will also see the district continue its alignment to the Common Core standards, the implementation of a new teacher and administrator evaluation system — a system all school districts in the state are changing to — and the shift to PowerSchool, a student information management system.

James said information sessions will be held in Beacon Falls and Prospect for parents to learn about the new evaluation system and how to use PowerSchool.

The district also plans to start a quarterly newsletter this school year to keep parents and residents up to date on what’s going on in the schools, James said.

With the first day of school just around the corner, James said everyone is excited for another year. Everyone wants and needs the summer break, James said Monday during a lunch break in teacher conferences, but the staff is ready to meet and greet the students for a new year.

Luke Marshall contributed to this article.