Kingston schoolkids get back to learning

Avayah Rodriguez, 5, entering kindergarten at Edson. (Photos by Phyllis McCabe)

Jibril Blain, 5½, is being walked to Edson for his first day of kindergarten by his mother, Victoria, and his sister, Mariam, 2½.

Students across the Kingston City School District returned to class this week, and even though summer weather seems determined to hang on just a bit longer, the start of the 2018-19 school year is here.

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In Kingston schools, the new school year may feel a bit like the one which ended nearly three months ago, but school officials say a little continuity can go a long way.

“What the kids want more than anything, kids and faculty, is consistency,” said Superintendent Paul Padalino on Tuesday during a brief pause in the final preparations for the first day of school. “We’ve got a couple of new principals [at Crosby and JFK], but we didn’t have a huge turnover in teachers this year. A couple of years ago we had a lot of retirements, but we didn’t have that this year, and that’s good. Students will be coming in and seeing familiar faces in buildings they’re used to, most of which have a little bit of improvement here and there. We’re hoping kids will come in and we’ll do our usual opening day stuff and move on with the year.”

Kathleen Sickles is the new principal at Crosby, moving into the role after serving as an assistant principal at Highland Elementary School since October 2014. Prior to her move to Highland, Sickles was an assistant principal and third-grade teacher at the St. Joseph School in Kingston. Sickles has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and a certificate of advanced graduate study from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. 

Melissa Jamieson has taken over at JFK, moving upstate from Brooklyn, where she most recently served as assistant principal at P.S. 164 Caesar Rodney in the Borough Park neighborhood.

Elsewhere, there was little turnover, and if students don’t have the same teachers from one year to the next, they may still find comfort in seeing familiar faces in the hallways said Padalino.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty standard opening day,” Padalino said. “There’s been a lot of work done in a lot of buildings. Today we have our teachers in, and they’re getting settled. A lot of them weren’t able to get into their rooms before.”

Friends Imani Rogers, 12, and Vaishnavi Shah, 11, both in seventh-grade at J. Watson Bailey, catch up after having not seen each other over the summer.

But for the district’s youngest students, there’s often very little that familiar about the first day of school, and that may lead to delays getting to and from school.

“We’re always asking parents for patience that first day of school with the buses on pickup and delivery,” Padalino said. “A bus route for an elementary school might have a kindergartner at every stop, there’s 10 stops, and there’s a hug from mom and a sad kid getting on the bus, that’s an extra two or three minutes, which means 30 minutes late. Those are the things we always hope people are conscious of and they give us a little leeway the first 10 days of school or so.”

Arrival and dismissal is also new at Kingston High, which this summer saw the completion of the first phase of the $137.5 million Second Century project, which has seen much of the campus footprint change through renovation and construction. Students are being asked to arrive wither through the Broadway Main entrance of the new Salzmann Building entrance between 7:15-7:45 a.m., with bus dropoff and pickup in the new circle at Salzmann only.

Class schedules were also slightly adjusted to meet new requirements from the State Education Department, which added an hourly component to the previous daily educational requirements districts must offer students. Classes at Kingston High are 43 minutes long, with students having four minutes between the end of one and the start of another to navigate the sprawling campus. Padalino said the changes, which see first period begin at 7:50 a.m. and eighth period end at 2:12 p.m., were adopted to allow for the least amount of impact on how students and teachers approach their day.

“It shouldn’t have a huge impact on our students,” Padalino said. “A couple of minutes here and there on dismissal and arrival, so no big deal.”

Adriana Corona takes a picture of her son, Adrian Castillo, 7, who is entering second-grade at Edson.

In a letter to students, parents and teachers, KHS Principal Kirk Reinhardt addressed the academic changes that are coming with the newly remodeled school. Though the concept of smaller learning communities has been in the works for some time and will not be fully realized until the Second Century project is completed around 2022, the district is already moving in that direction.

“This fall we will embark on an exciting phase of matching the structural setting of our high school to the needs of our students,” wrote Reinhardt. “We will provide smaller learning communities to help all students achieve their highest potential. Our staff continually works to find new and exciting ways to engage our students and best prepare them for a challenging post-high school global world and education.”

For the past month or so, teachers have been preparing their classrooms for the influx of students this week, and while capital projects have touched nearly every building in the district, nowhere are the changes more apparent than at Kingston High.

“It’s just a totally different environment,” Padalino said. “The stark contrast when you walk from the Main building into the new Salzmann wings, it really punctuates the newness. Teachers are ready and raring to go. I walked the high school with the principal [Reinhardt], and teachers were saying how they’re looking forward to meeting with their teams and they’re raring to go.”

Padalino said he looked forward to visiting schools on the first day of the new year, especially at Kingston High where kids may be overwhelmed by the renovations.

“I’ll be there to see the kids arrive and see how they feel about it,” Padalino said. “It’s going to be an exciting morning there. And the first day of school is exciting for a lot of people. And depressing for a lot of people too. Unfortunately the temperature doesn’t want summer to be over. It’s always hard when the first couple of days of school are those hot, humid days. But we’ll get through them. It’s nice to have the climate control when we have this kind of weather.” 

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