This article originally appeared on the Sunday Dispatch and was written by Jimmy Fisher. To view the original article, click here.
HUGHESTOWN —Kadynce Castellani, 10, arrived at the Martin L. Mattei Middle School on Wednesday eager to start her new adventure.
She received her homeroom assignment and locker combination and took the time to practice opening it — even if she did need help from her older sister, Tiara Crawford.
Nonetheless, the Pittston resident feels ready for the journey that awaits her come Monday.
“I think I’m going to be nervous,” she said. “But, I’ll feel a little bit of happiness.”
Castellani was one of hundreds of fifth grade students who, along with their parents and/or guardians, attended an orientation at the Pittston Area school Aug. 24.
Principal Patrick Bilbow spoke briefly about the upcoming school year in terms of the dress code, when students can be dropped off and picked up, attendance policies and schedule changes.
According to Bilbow a schedule change that was put into place this year is having students take more related arts classes such as gym, music, art, computer time, library time, introduction to Spanish, a health class, and a family and consumer science class.
“We had a middle school schedule, that was very unique, that gave kids 84-minute related arts periods and it was a 10-day in a row related arts cycle, meaning that you went to gym 10 days in a row and then on the 11th day you started another program,” said Bilbow. “That scheduled hampered us in being able to offer kids more opportunities academically.”
Now, students will have a different related arts class each day on a six-day cycle, meaning students who have gym on day one of the cycle will take other related arts classes the next five days, before taking gym again when the cycle repeats.
One of the biggest talking points Bilbow went over with the students and their parents/guardians was the safety the school provides.
He talked about the Raptor system in which visitors picking up their child must provide a Pennsylvania state driver’s licence to the security guard in the main lobby, and the system runs a background check on the individual.
Bilbow also showed everyone the high definition cameras, that were installed last school inside and outside the building, which covers every inch of the middle school.
Avoca resident Michael Adonizio, 39, has twin boys Andrew and Jacob, 10, entering fifth grade and said he feels comfortable knowing they will be in a safe environment.
“It’s important, very much so,” he said. “As far as the high definition cameras, those are nice, and I like the procedures on getting into the school. I think they’re good active measures.”
Bilbow, who is a father of three children, said he understands what it’s like for parents to be nervous about leaving their children in a new environment, which was why he focused on the school’s security measures.
“I have three boys at my house and are all school-aged,” he said. “I know how I feel if I feel good dropping them off somewhere or nervous dropping them off somewhere. My biggest thing is I want the kids to have a great experience, and I want the parents to know that when they’re at work and their children are at school, it’s under control.”
Bilbow said he could see the excitement and nervousness in the students’ faces during orientation, but once school starts on Monday he believes they will “hit the ground running.”
As far as his own excitement levels, Bilbow is already counting down the hours.
“For me, the first day of school is like Super Bowl Sunday and game seven of the World Series all rolled into one,” he said. “When I’m getting into bed Sunday night, I’ll feel like I have the biggest game of my life Monday morning; that’s the excitement level I have.”