New Paltz Middle school students will be given the privilege of using a locker

A file photo from freshmen orientation at New Paltz High School in the early 2000’s.

It’s time to teach kids in the New Paltz Middle School a skill that is new to many of them: how to use a locker. Those icons of life in public school have been off-limits since students have returned to the halls, because no one was sure how to keep the little ones six feet apart during that chaotic period between classes. The answer will be tight-fisted control over who gets to what lockers, and when.

The November 17 School Board meeting included the reading of a letter from middle-school students and parents, asking for this privilege to be returned. What’s been happening is that the children carry all of their possessions from class to class: textbooks, notebooks, musical instruments, lunches and outerwear all have to be lugged around. These are “heavier loads than seem safe for our age,” per the letter. It also is a blow against the independence that many parents prize for their children in that age range; the school’s location in Town has long made it possible for children to stretch their boundaries. Since Angela Urbina-Medina, the superintendent, has quashed the three-decade practice of dropping kids in Town from district buses for pandemic-related reasons — and has signaled a desire to do away with the service permanently out of fear of liability — kids with those “heavier loads” are often stuck going straight home rather than exploring the Village with friends.

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It’s not clear if the announcement about reopening middle-school lockers was made in response to this letter, or if this was a well-timed coincidence, but Urbina-Medina confirmed that this will come to pass in December. Principal Ann Sheldon sent a notification that same evening laying out plans to have evening orientations for the issuance of combinations, allowing youngsters to learn how to use them with their parents in tow. Eighth graders, the only ones who have ever used lockers, will be encouraged to help younger students get used to the idea.

Nothing was said at the meeting about whether high school students will also regain locker privileges.

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