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Back-To-School Blues Are FewAs School Year Starts Anew



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Back-To-School Blues Are Few

As School Year Starts Anew

By Larissa Lytwyn

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, Newtown schools were still reeling from a $1.2 million cut to their proposed budgets when the district was faced with some unanticipated effects from its transition from a four- to three-tier bus system.

To accommodate the new system, the school day schedule of Newtown Middle School was matched with Newtown High School’s. Sandy Hook, Middle Gate, and Head O’ Meadow elementary schools faced days that ended over an hour later than they had during the 2002-03 school year.

In addition to adjusting to the schedule changes, students faced a number of bus-related stressors, including missed buses, hour-plus bus rides, and overcrowding.

 It took nearly two months of rerouting and $65,000 in additional buses, among other adjustments, for the new system to function efficiently.

This year, the “tweaks” from last fall, combined with the aid of VersaTrans, a new software system for bus routing, have resulted in a year, that, according to faculty, has, so far, been going generally well.

“We’re off to a wonderful start!” declared Newtown Middle School Assistant Principal Kathy Boettner during the afternoon of August 31, the first day of school. “Everything is going well — better than expected.”

Sonia Brand-Fisher, an eighth grader, said the new school year looked notably more challenging, academically.

“We already have homework,” she said, “and my math teacher already announced a project that is coming up.” Still, she said, “I’ll be fine.”

Sheena Finlayson, a seventh grader, noted the physical transition between Reed Intermediate and the middle school. “There are a lot of twists and turns,” she said.

She said she was excited about the number of different subjects she will be able to take, including foreign language. “I’m in Spanish,” she said. “It seems good so far.”

Stephanie Badick, also a seventh grader, said she liked the middle school. “I’ve already made some new friends,” she said.

Nonetheless, other new arrivals to the middle school, such as Ben Murphy and Brandon Bowen, said that the school was a far cry from Reed’s plush, air-conditioned halls.

“It was really hot in the classrooms,” said Ben. “There’s not any carpeting either.”

“It can be tough finding your way around,” said Brandon.

In addition to the physical transition between schools, middle school-aged students are on the cusp of adolescence.

“There are a lot of big changes,” said health teacher Gail Seymour. To ease some of the emotional changes young teens go through, she developed a new “Shield” project.

“Students will explore what their protective factors are,” she said. “We’ll also be talking about self-image, as well.”

She hopes the Shield project will help students develop better coping skills, as well as be more socially sensitive and responsible young adults.

“In health class, we also try to integrate a lot of activity,” she said. “It pleased me when some students told me how much fun they had today.”

Transition At The      High School

At Newtown High School, the first day of school seemed to take off exactly where the previous year left off.

After the final bell rang, the halls were alive with activity, including a cheerleading rehearsal and other extracurricular and sports activities.

The only notable change was news that Principal Bill Manfredonia would be leaving November 30 to serve as principal at Edgemont Junior/Senior High School in Scarsdale, N.Y.

“I’m sad,” said one student, Bria Innaurato. “He was a really good principal.”

“It’s going to be a whole new school,” said another student, Mallory Berko. “Mr Manfredonia was such a part of things here, such a part of the school.”

Steve Marks, a junior, agreed that Mr Manfredonia was a “good principal” and well liked.

“I’m surprised he’s leaving in the middle of the school year,” he said. “It seemed sudden.”

Despite the change, there are always the hallmarks of a high school grade transition, whether a student is a freshman or a senior.

“The classes definitely seem a lot harder,” said Jared Modzelewski.

His brother Dave is a senior. “I’m looking forward to having fun this year,” Dave said. “It’s going to be a good year.”

While P.J. O’ Dell, also a senior, said he was taking one “hard” class this year, he acknowledged that it was also a year to definitely have fun. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

At Hawley Elementary School, buses seemed to be arriving perfectly on time.

“Every thing seems to be going pretty good so far,” said Principal Jo-Ann Peters.

As the final bell rang, students poured eagerly out of the building.

“I like school a lot,” said third grader Jamison Fletcher. “My teacher is nice. I like math the best.”

Her friend, fellow third grader Morgan Macchiarulo, seemed equally positive about the school year.

“I like spelling a lot,” she said. “I like being [back] in school.”

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