As summer begins to wind down, the Sandwich schools start to gear up for the new school year. In order to make the transition back to classes an easy and enjoyable experience for students, the schools have scheduled a variety of activities and orientations designed to connect with every student in the district.
At each of the district’s K-6 schools, there will be a play date for all incoming kindergartners and their parents, which will take place on the playgrounds at each of the schools.
“This gives the children a chance to meet their classmates in a fun environment,” Henry T. Wing School principal Debra Landry said. “Parents also have an opportunity to meet and greet one another. It is designed to let the students meet others, so that on the first day of school they will see friendly, familiar faces.”
Forestdale principal Marc J. Smith said the play date provides an easy way for parents to network and get to know the parents of other children in the class. “For some families, this is their first foray into Sandwich Public Schools,” he said. “This provides parents the opportunity to get to know other parents.”
The networking aspect for parents is important, especially when it comes time for play dates outside of the school setting. “My kid’s best friends are those that are in their class that year,” Mr. Smith said. “When they’re asking to go over to someone’s house, it’s nice to know the parents who will be there.”
The Oak Ridge School will be holding an orientation for students who are new to the district, principal M. Patrice Hurley said. “Through this process, children see that there are many new students, they are not alone,” Ms. Hurley said. “Familiar faces will be there to greet them on the first day of school.”
Ms. Hurley said the PTAs from each school will be hosting a welcome back evening before school opens, as well. “At Oak Ridge it involves a scavenger hunt as children visit classrooms and a get-together in the cafeteria,” she said.
“Back to school night will be very informal at Forestdale,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s an open period of time for families to come in, get a sneak peek at the classroom, and just have an opportunity to come in and get excited about school.”
“All in all, we believe this prepares children for enjoyable transitions back to the classroom and calms any concerns they may have about doing so,” Ms. Hurley said. “We could not do so without our amazing PTA parents’ support.”
The transition for students entering the STEM Academy has been ongoing, according to the director of the STEM Academy, Gilbert D. Newton. He said that students came together last year to begin to choose their electives and design and select the program’s mascot.
The students also had STEMabrations at Camp Bournedale in June, during which they were able to meet some of the staff as well as other students coming into the program from across the district. Activities included icebreakers, leadership courses, even classes in STEM-type programs, such as rocketry and geocaching.
“It was a huge success,” Mr. Newton said. “I will probably keep doing it for 6th graders as they come up into the program.”
There will also be a welcome night for STEM students and their parents, where parents will have the opportunity to ask Mr. Newton any questions they may have about the program and students will be able to talk with the peer leaders at the high school. The students will be given a tour of their hallway and the new labs and will then have the chance to give their parents a tour of their own.
The students will then be treated to something special. “The STEM Parents’ Task Force has a surprise to welcome the kids to STEM,” Mr. Newton said, although he would not elaborate further.
On the first day of school, STEM students will have an assembly during which they will view a taped video message from Senator Elizabeth Warren welcoming them to the school, as well as a visit from ocean explorer Katy Croff Bell, a chief scientist in scientist-explorer Robert Ballard’s lab, who will be sharing her adventures with the kids.
“It will be a routine day otherwise,” Mr. Newton said. “They’ll be escorted to lunches and everyone will be helping them to feel welcome. I think within a few days it will be like they’ve always been there.”
The transition to Sandwich High School presents the additional challenge of blending students from Oak Ridge, Forestdale, and Wing schools for the very first time. At other districts she had worked in, “students were already blended in middle school,” high school principal Ellin Booras said. “When I started here, I found that freshmen were talking about where they came from as a part of their identity well into the year.”
Her goal became finding a way to create a new identity among the freshmen of being a part of a unified class of students. The freshman orientation at Camp Burgess was born from this goal.
“When the kids go, they’re told that they will come out of the orientation feeling like the Class of 2018,” Dr. Booras said. “They are a member of something bigger than any one of the sending schools.”
The students will also have an opportunity to talk to Sandwich High School student leaders, a group selected during their sophomore year to set a good example for younger students. The leaders will field any questions that the incoming freshmen have, ranging from homework to dating to dress codes and everything in-between.
There will be a second orientation night for incoming freshmen, where they are shown their homerooms, lockers, and given a pep talk by the student leaders.
“The student leaders will give them very personal pep talks about the excitement of going to high school and how they’re all going to bring something special to the school,” Dr. Booras said. “The goal is to make everyone feel welcome.”
These events will all take place in the week prior to school opening; dates and times for the activities are posted on each of the school websites.