School Superintendent Finn says, ‘We are so ready’

Christine Finn

Classes begin at the Shelter Island School tomorrow, September 5, with teachers returning today. The number of students this year is close to the 2017-18 school year with an anticipated 217 students going back to the books.

“I’m excited,” Superintendent Christine Finn said about the year ahead. “We are so ready for the kids to be here.”

While there have been no major renovations this summer, the teachers’ room has been redone. The maintenance crew has been painting some rooms and corridors to freshen up the scene, plus there’s been lots of scrubbing and cleaning to get the building ready for the first day.

The teachers’ room had been in poor shape, Ms. Finn said. With some freshening up and some new photographs contributed by Board of Education member Kathleen Lynch, the room has undergone a makeover. The elementary corridor has been repainted and new murals will be on the walls.

Outside, there’s now a hopscotch court and other areas for elementary school students to enjoy the outdoors as long as the weather holds. Some new Smartboards will be installed and, as always, other technology will be upgraded. Thanks to the diligent work of Mike Dunning, new cabinets are in place to display trophies and Athletic Hall of Fame honorees.

Two major vacancies are on the radar of the Board of Education and Ms. Finn. District business official Idowu Ogundipe left Shelter Island at the end of the spring term to take a similar position in Wyandanch, nearer his home. School social worker Jennifer Olsen has also left the district and the search is on for her replacement.

In promoting safety in the school, Shelter Island will be involved with the ALICE Training Institute — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — that prepares staff and students in handling any threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooting event. Suffolk County has become proactive to ensure schools are safe and prepared to deal with emergency circumstances.

There are additions to the curriculum and some new clubs on tap for the 2018-19 school year.

The emphasis on development of social and emotional skills that started with the “Decency” campaign will continue with an emphasis on ensuring the school maintains a positive environment in which students want to come to school.

Advanced placement history, financial literacy for middle school students, personal fitness and the addition of a writing center will round out the academic additions.

New clubs will include a “unity club” that is essentially a gay-straight alliance. An intramural tennis program is on deck along with a drama club for students in grades six through eight. Cheerleaders will be back this fall.

The same starting date of September 5 applies for the private Shelter Island Early Learning Center that takes students who are 2- or 3-years old. Students will find the colorful walls, games and other materials gone, replaced by muted whites and grays and natural materials such as tree limbs.

The effort is to stimulate their own imaginations, rather than to create an atmosphere where they simply respond to the environment around them, according to head teacher Hannah Gray. Joining Ms. Gray this year is assistant Samantha De Mar.

A Forest Program is being added for 4-year-olds in the afternoon, for students who don’t participate in the preschool program offered by Ms. Gray.