Island Park Public Schools saw big changes this summer, from major building renovations to teacher training for new curricula.
“It’s been a great summer, a busy summer,” said Superintendent Dr. Rosmarie Bovino. “With the buildings, but also a lot of professional development for new programs for the school year that we’re very excited about.”
After months of construction, students in Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School and Lincoln Orens Middle School entered upgraded facilities on Sept. 4. “Everything that has to be done is done,” Bovino said. “Now we’re just painting and touching up.”
The bulk of the multi-faceted summer project was funded by a bond, which voters approved in 2017, and completed over the summer. Finishing touches will be made during after school hours and weekends, said Assistant Superintendent Vincent Randazzo.
Both schools have new fire alarm, carbon monoxide detector and public address systems. Every classroom has a telephone handset that can make internal and external calls, which allows teachers to contact anyone outside the schools, including 911. “That provides a new security component,” Bovino said.
District officials are especially excited about the new air-conditioning units at both schools, Bovino said. The addition of A.C. in the gymnasiums and remaining classrooms completes an ongoing project to bring cool air to the entirety of both buildings. New air-conditioning ventilators, however, will not be functional for about another two weeks, Bovino noted.
In addition, many wall, roof and flooring repairs were made over the summer. At the elementary school, there were large asbestos abatements and roughly 28 pilings added for structural support. “There was separation between the main floor and the supporting substructure, so we decided to put in new pilings and totally new floors,” Bovino explained.
The elementary school also has a back-up generator now, which the middle school already had. It will be functional pending approval of additional gas service from National Grid.
At the middle school, the elevator was refurbished with new safety features. There are also new roofed canopies over the gymnasium doors leading to the athletic fields, which will help with drainage, Randazzo noted.
Teachers, including 18 newcomers, experienced their first day of instruction in the new facilities. “We’re really excited,” Bovino said. “We have a lot of talented new teachers coming in.”
Over the summer, Island Park schools held several teacher training sessions, for both new and returning teachers, for new programs in English Language Arts, social studies, math and science. Teachers trained in frameworks for teaching social studies, as well as the Go Math curriculum.
The biggest instruction overhauls, however, happened in English and science. In June, English teachers received coaching in Fountas and Pinnell Literacy and Teachers College Reading and Writing Projects in the elementary and middle school, respectively. The new curricula will come with more than 1,000 new books per classroom, offering students an “enriched classroom library,” Bovino noted.
In August, elementary school teachers completed the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison Science Center professional development with BOCES. Middle school science teachers trained in Science Dimensions. Both programs offer science tool kits and new benchmarks for teachers.
While the district ran pilots of both of these programs last year, they will be fully implemented starting this year. The curricula “align with the next generation of science learning standards” set by New York state, and offer students hands-on, inquiry-based learning, Randazzo said.
Certain teachers also trained to be new professional learning community, or PLC, leaders, so professional development will continue throughout the school year.