On a roll: First day of school starts smoothly
As the 2015-16 school year got underway Thursday morning, with approximately 5,700 students expected at the town’s public schools, things appeared to be off to a smooth start — including traffic flow over the North Avenue bridge, which officials feared might pose a major bottleneck.
But after local officials got the state Department of Transportation to agree to a stopgap traffic option at the under-construction span — with a single lane open to alternating traffic flows — no major backups were reported Thursday morning. The single-lane traffic pattern will remain in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays only until reconstruction of the bridge is finished, which is not expected until late October — months after the initial completion date.
Parents seemed to be heeding officials’ request to have their children travel to school via bus, instead of driving them, to limit traffic volume and minimize delays passing over the bridge.
Meanwhile, the usual cheers — along with some tears — of a new school year unfolded elsewhere without major problems, school officials reported.
“Everything couldn’t be better,” Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon said during a brief break Thursday morning. This marks Landon’s last academic year at the helm of the Westport public schools, as he plans to retire next spring.
First day of the 2015-16 academic year was Thursday.
Estimated enrollment figures: 1,900 students at Staples High School; approximately 1,400 students at the middle schools, and 2,400 in the elementary schools.
Parents urged to have students ride school buses, instead of driving them to school, to avoid congestion at the North Avenue bridge, where construction delays will allow only one lane of alternating traffic weekdays until the project’s expected completion in late October. Four schools are primarily affected by the construction delay: Staples High School, Bedford Middle School and Coleytown Elementary and Middle schools.
Mark Karagus, a former principal of Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, is the new interim principal of Staples High School.
Other new school district administrators: John Bayers, director of human resources and general administration; Kevin Cazzetta, principal at Greens Farms School; Jeffrey Golubchick, principal at Long Lots School; Joanne Vale, interim principal at Kings Highway School; Ryan Betts, assistant principal at Saugatuck Elementary School; Molly Farrell, assistant principal at Long Lots School; Andrew Hill, 6-12 mathematics chairman, and Ellen Israel, director of continuing education.
Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon plans to retire next spring at the end of the school year, and the Board of Education has begun the process to search for a replacement. Public forums on the search are planned next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium and Thursday, Sept. 10, at 10 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.
Earlier in the week, Landon said the school district’s new Bring Your Own Device policy is, “we believe, ready to go.” Staples High School students, beginning this school year, are required to bring an electronic device to school for daily use in connection with studies.
He said both teachers and students have “prepared ahead of time” about what the policy entails.
This year, Landon said, there will be about 1,900 students at Staples, 1,400 students at the middle school level and 2,400 attending elementary schools.
Of the Staples enrollment, Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon said the school “has been over capacity for the past few years and projections have it continuing to grow.” He added that’s something the school board “may take a serious look at this year.”
Landon said there are also a number of other new school administrators: John Bayers, director of human resources and general administration; Kevin Cazzetta, principal at Greens Farms School; Jeffrey Golubchick, principal at Long Lots School: Joanne Vale, interim principal at Kings Highway School; Ryan Betts, assistant principal at Saugatuck Elementary School; Molly Farrell, assistant principal at Long Lots School; Andrew Hill, 6-12 mathematics chairman, and Ellen Israel, director of continuing education.
“We're excited that the new school year has a number of promotions from within our ranks, including the new director of human resources and the new principal of Greens Farms, who returned to the district to take this position,” Gordon said.
He said the school board is in the process of selecting a new superintendent of schools to replace Landon.
“We have been planning over the summer and are beginning community outreach next week with a public survey and two forums” on Sept. 1 and 10, he said.
“These are open to parents and the entire community,” he added.
“The purpose of the public input is to give members of the community an opportunity to share their views on the future of the district and the desired qualities of the next superintendent.”
Gordon said this early input “will help the board as it goes through the search process and selects the next superintendent.”