Day One, a great one

By on August 31, 2016

Cocalico students and teachers have high hopes for the 2016-17 school year

Cocalico Middle School students head to their classrooms for the first day of the 2016-17 academic year as administrators greet their arrivals.

Cocalico Middle School students head to their classrooms for the first day of the 2016-17 academic year as administrators greet their arrivals. photo by Stan Hall.

Adamstown Elementary School Principal Denise Logue chatted with her kindergartners about backpacks and butterfly stickers as they boarded Bus 17 for a ride home Monday.

As they found their seats with smiles of satisfaction, she shared in their sense of accomplishment and exhaustion.

“As a new person, I was very anxious about the unexpected happening, the things you can’t plan for, just making sure everyone gets here and gets home on the right buses,” said Logue, who is just starting as a building principal following years as a classroom teacher and the district’s reading director. “It was a great day. The kids were happy, and the people who work here were terrific and ready.”

Logue is one of several new administrators who helped Cocalico School District’s 3,000-plus students kick off the 2016-17 school year.

The staff shuffling reached all the way to the top office, where Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser marked her first, first day by visiting all five schools.

At the middle school, she helped sixth graders find their way to classes, met with pre-kindergartners at Reamstown Elementary, and finished her morning at the high school.

Students in grades 9 through 12 this year received a MacBook as part of the district’s 1:1 technology initiative. Teachers expected to incorporate technology into lessons following an introduction.

“The biggest challenge,” Musser said, “was that some of our students forgot their passwords.”

They were whisked off to the library, where extra staff was on hand to help retrieve the critical information.

Also at the high school, the business department rolled out two new classes this year, both hands-on STEM courses designed to prepare students for high-tech careers.

Former math director Scott Benenetch helped choose the courses and develop a long-term STEM plan for the district; he is now assistant principal at Cocalico High.

The middle school welcomed a new principal this year. Bradley Testa was promoted after serving as the building’s assistant principal for seven years. Susan Snyder was hired in mid-August to fill his former role.

New programs for middle schoolers include a breakfast service.

Between 7:20 and 7:35 a.m., students can buy one of five entrees, fruit, juice, and milk and take their breakfast to class to start their day.

The expansion is part of a statewide push to increase the availability of school breakfasts. According to state statistics, only 55 percent of the 602,000 low-income students receiving free or reduced-price lunches also get breakfast.

Any student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch in Cocalico can get a free or reduced breakfast, too. Full price ranges from $1.15 to $1.50.

More than 30 students bought breakfast today, but Testa expects that to climb to 70 to 90 daily later in the school year. The middle school was the last district school without a breakfast offering, although the number of children qualifying for free and reduced meals has climbed consistently for several years.

The middle school program was piloted about half way through the 2015-16 school year as result of the district’s comprehensive planning process.

“Any time we can provide another support for our students, we’ll do it,” Testa said.

Musser said the middle school’s CREW program — a weekly, small-group meeting where students work on service projects as a team — will pick up the character mantle being promoted throughout the district this year.

“They’re really working a lot on mind set,” Musser said. “We want our students to be taking risks and really doing their best.”

At Adamstown, students were greeted in the morning by blue-and-white balloons and photos depicting all kinds of professions, from Dr. Seuss to scientists to artists and musicians.

Around 2 p.m., the entire school shuffled into an assembly where they were handed their expectations for the year, played a game of “Family Feud” to emphasize good behavior, and learned more about their new leader.

“I told them I was a teacher and I’m used to learning names,” Logue said after school. “But there were a lot more of them today. I’m thankful for name tags.”

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