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Some school districts face new math this year
- From: fergdawg
- Date: Wed Sep 07 01:13:36 2005
This story was sent to you by: Fergie (Paul Ferguson)
Some school districts face new math this year
Amid the usual excitement for kids is the reality of cuts in sports and buses from budget defeats
BY JOHN HILDEBRAND
September 7, 2005
While yellow buses rolled once again, hundreds of Long Island students and their parents still scrambled to cope with reductions in bus schedules and other school services resulting from last spring's record budget defeats.
Most classes start this week -- an annual rite marked with the excitement of reuniting with classmates and exploring remodeled schools. But mixed with excitement is a sense of loss in many of the 21 districts operating under so-called austerity budgets.
In Smithtown, students yesterday spent their first day at the district's reopened High School East in St. James -- a sprawling white-brick building complete with its own radio broadcast center and four computerized writing labs. Along with amenities there, students face cuts in services -- for example, elimination of late buses used in the past to take teens home after afternoon sports practices and club meetings.
"We'll miss the late buses," said Liz Shea, president of the high school's newly organized Parent Teacher Student Association. Like many parents, she has helped organize a carpool to get her 11th-grade daughter home after soccer practices.
On the other hand, Shea thinks most parents like the fact that the district now has a second high school -- a chance, perhaps, for students to get to know classmates and teachers better. The building opened as a high school in 1953, but had operated since 1989 as a middle school.
In Port Washington, another district coping with budget cuts, some families threatened with losses of bus transportation got some relief yesterday. The district announced it would restore after-school busing to local child-care centers that it had earlier planned to trim.
"Oh, that's fantastic!" said Deborah Ratner, a social worker, who had feared she wouldn't be able to find rides to a child-care center for her 8-year-old son on days she is scheduled to work. "It'll take a lot of pressure off my work day."
Seventh- and eighth-grade sports teams have been reduced in number or eliminated in several districts, including Mineola, Seaford and Plainedge. In the latter district, parents have raised enough money in donations to save fall and winter sports on the varsity and junior-varsity levels, and are trying to rescue spring sports as well.
"We're still plugging along," said Theresa Schaeffer, the mother of a Plainedge football quarterback and spokeswoman for a parent fundraising group. Schaeffer, who teaches in New York City, voiced regret over other cut programs that parents have not been able to salvage -- for example, her daughter's high-school Spanish club.
Still, school routines go on. Inside Plainedge Middle School, students yesterday struggled with locker combinations and finding classes. Twelve-year-old Brittany Giordina shrugged when asked if budget cuts had affected how students felt about returning to school.
"Not really," she said. "Nothing really has been taken from us education-wise."
Elsewhere, the mood was often upbeat. In Westhampton Beach, families welcomed a district decision to distribute laptop computers to every sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader. And in Roosevelt, state Education Commissioner Richard Mills visited the only school district run by the state to help mark the rebuilding of an elementary school there.
The remodeled Centennial School opens to students tomorrow -- the first stage of a $200-million project aimed at eventually rebuilding or replacing every school in the district.
"The music room, the computer sets, the bathrooms -- everything is right there and it looks wonderful," Mills said after touring the school. The commissioner also told an audience of about 200 teachers and others that the rebuilt school was the best evidence yet that Roosevelt was on the rise.
In Westhampton Beach, 12-year-old Danielle Parry yesterday was looking forward to picking up her laptop. Last year, she was in a pilot program that leased a laptop for every sixth-grader.
"I really liked math last year," she said. "We use a sketch pad. You don't have to use a compass to make circles. It's quicker, and we learn more."
The experiment is costing the Westhampton Beach school district $375,000 to lease the laptops and required hardware and software for about 430 students and their teachers, who can access the Internet anywhere in the middle school.
The goal isn't to increase computer literacy, according to Superintendent Lynn Schwartz. It's to open the door to a whole new way of teaching. Every classroom has a projector and whiteboard -- on which PowerPoint data are displayed electronically -- and all of the sixth-graders were doing PowerPoint presentations after a few weeks last year.
"This is the 21st century classroom, right here," Schwartz said.
The superintendent estimated 95 percent of the students in his school have home computers, but that does not mean the students can use them when they need to.
"The laptop is easier," said Jesse Schulz, 12, who like Parry is starting seventh grade. "My computer at home is a desktop, and I have three brothers. A lot of the time, one of them is on it."
Amid the excitement and confusion of the first days of school, some Island youngsters still had time to think of others. At Lawrence Road Middle School in Uniondale, Principal Valerie Henning-Piedmonte and her students raised $650 during lunch periods to donate to Gulf Coast hurricane victims.
An eighth-grader, Aleisha Darrell, 13, said she and classmates came up with the idea of relief aid during a social studies class.
Said Darrell, "Some gave $5, some gave $20, because they know they've got it good, and the people down there really need some help."
Staff writers Mitchell Freedman and Karla Schuster contributed to this story.
Copyright (c) 2005, Newsday, Inc.
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