Local Administrators Looking Forward to New School Year

JEFFERSON CO., Pa. (EYT) – The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time for more than just the students.

(Photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)

“We’re definitely looking forward to seeing kids back in the classroom with in-person instruction. We worked hard to prepare over the summer, and I know teachers anxious to have smiling faces back in their classrooms,” Punxsutawney Area Superintendent Thomas Lesniewski told exploreJefferson.com.

“I think our main goal is definitely to provide quality education with in-person instruction for 180 days in a clean and safe environment for our students and our staff.”

Erich May, Superintendent of Brookville Area School District, said he was very happy with how the school year began on Wednesday.

“Visiting schools this morning, I was glad to see the learning was already underway. In some classes, teachers were taking time to get to know their students. That’s so important to us – that every student is known and understood and cared for here. In other classes, students were already digging into the content. I heard a first-grader say, ‘Let’s do some math!'”

May noted that Brookville Area School District is also taking all reasonable precautions while still working to make the school year as normal as possible.

“We’re doing two-hour early dismissals on Fridays for deep cleaning and extra planning and collaboration. We’re maintaining our learning management system, Brightspace, because we want to provide quality instruction to students who are home on quarantine or by choice.”

He noted that masks are optional in the district, the school is doing contact tracing and quarantines for positive COVID-19 cases, as they did during the previous year, and they are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.

According to May, sports and extracurriculars are also both underway, with auditions for the school musical beginning next week.

“The musical was the one thing we missed last year, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Brockway Superintendent Jeff Vizza noted that school staff members have worked very hard over the past few months in anticipation of the beginning of the new school year.

“Today our staff welcomed over 900 amazing students for the beginning of another successful school year. With a dedicated staff and the tremendous support of the community, our students returned to a safe, clean, and caring environment that wants every student to reach their fullest potential.”

Vizza said educators at Brockway are happy for the return to in-person education and to have extracurriculars kicking off and noted that Brockway’s Homecoming Celebration is scheduled for October 8.

At Clarion-Limestone School District, the school year kicked off with a special Open House at the elementary school on Tuesday night, provided for the students since they didn’t get to have a “Moving Up Day” at the end of the last school year.

“We had a fantastic turnout,” Superintendent Amy Glasl reported.

“The number of people that came was just incredible. There were so many smiling faces.”

Magisterial District Judge Duane Quinn from Clarion County and Jefferson County President Judge John Foradora were special guests at the event and also returned to the district on Wednesday morning to greet the students when they arrived.

“The busses all ran great and the kids came off of them more excited than ever,” Glasl said.

“During the day, I took our therapy dog around the buildings and everything was going really well. Our theme this year is positivity, and that’s really what we’re striving for, a positive environment where our students and staff are happy and can thrive.”

Glasl noted she’s also looking forward to the district’s new Under My Wing program, which has district staff members each taking on a student to mentor.

“We’re really excited about this, and it fits in perfectly with our positivity theme.”

While area administrators are looking forward to the coming year with hope, the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic does still loom over the coming months, with cases in the area recently rising. That concern also continues to affect local schools, as well.

“While we’re not requiring masks at this time, we are doing contact tracing and quarantines – just like last year. We already have some students who are out for ten days of quarantine. We’re encouraging everyone to get vaccinated – for their own safety and the wellbeing of others but also because students and staff can avoid unnecessary quarantines if they’ve been vaccinated,” May noted.

Amanda Hetrick, Superintendent of Forest Area School District, also noted concerns about the ongoing pandemic.

“As we start the third school year that will be impacted by the COVID pandemic, I am still a little nervous about doing the best thing for everyone. At the end of the school year, our students, our staff, and even our families were tired of all of the extra pressure and responsibilities of facing COVID.”

However, Hetrick said that the downtime and some return to a semblance of normalcy during the summer helped.

“We had the whole summer to relax and things felt a little more normal to me as we gathered for graduation parties, family reunions, and summer picnics.”

Despite her concerns, Hetrick said she is definitely looking forward to the new school year.

“I am so excited to see the students and staff back at school. We have some great opportunities coming up this year for afterschool programming and tutoring to help support student learning. We are hopeful for a more ‘normal’ school year, although we know there may very well be some bumps along the way. We are feeling positive about the start of school and are planning to have a great year!”

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