Back to School: Classes resume in Abington Wednesday

Abington’s classrooms are neat and organized. Hallway floors are clean and polished. Teachers are rested and ready. It’s all systems go for Wednesday, as the town’s 2,188 students return to school.

“It’s exciting,” said Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer, who is starting his 14th year leading the district.

“To see all the time and attention the staff takes to make sure the classroom is as close to perfect as it can be, to make sure the floors are shined, and all the materials are distributed so that when kids arrive they can get right into it — to see all that prep work and then see the students filing in, it’s exciting.”

Students will attend classes Wednesday and Thursday before taking a long Labor Day weekend. Classes then resume on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The biggest change students and parents might notice this school year is a feeling of normalcy. It will be the first September since 2019 that students have returned without masks, a sign that COVID-19, although still present, is relatively contained. Cafeteria seating is no longer spaced out. Desks at the lower grades are pushed back together.

“I’m excited as our students and staff return to as close to a normal setting as we’ve had in three years,” said School Committee Chairman Chris Coyle.

The school population is still down from its recent high of 2,457 students in 2004-05, but up from the 2017 low of 1,916 students. Schafer said the student population has grown by about 50 students since last fall, with the growth distributed across the grades. Average class size to start the year is in the mid-20s, which is higher than preferred, but manageable. Schafer said the district hired a new 4th grade teacher this summer after class size in that grade started to approach 29.

In addition to new students, the district is seeing a sizeable group of new staff members, including teachers, paraprofessionals, tutors, and administrators. The High School alone has 11 new teachers, the vast majority filling spots left open by teachers who retired who moved to a new role or new district.

“While [the number of new staff] will certainly bring some challenges, I’m also excited for the opportunities it will present,” Coyle said.

And there are a number of new faces in the front offices of the town’s four schools. The Beaver Brook Elementary has both an interim principal and assistant principal. Julia Thompson, who was the school’s assistant principal is now in the big seat, filling in for Dr. Christopher Basta, who took on a new role in the district administrative office. Melanie Savicke, the school’s special educator coordinator, is now interim assistant principal. New Woodsdale Elementary School Principal Jennifer Barresi is getting ready for her first year leading the town’s 4th and 5th graders. And the district’s director of wellness programs and varsity girls soccer coach, Kate Casey, is starting the year as the interim assistant principal at Abington High School.

Schafer pegged the total number of new faces at around 30, with more possible as school districts across the state continue to make hiring decisions based on last-minute enrollment changes. Between retirements, COVID, changing work-life patterns, and a desire to cut down on commute times, many school districts around the area have experienced higher than average turnover.

“There’s been more transitions between districts than I’ve ever experienced,” he said.

To help new teachers get acclimated to school culture, each first-year educators receive additional profesional development, and is paired up with a veteran who helps show them around, and checks in frequently.

“Anyone who has been a teacher remembers the faculty member that took them under their wing when they started,” he said.

A COUPLE NOTES:

  • School lunch is free again this year for all students
  • Bus pickup and dropoff is always a challenge the first couple days as drivers learn new routes; patience is urged Wednesday and Thursday
  • Morning dropoff lines outside schools are also expected to be longer than normal the first couple days
  • Masks are not needed. Sick students should stay home. Good hygiene practices such as handwashing and coughing into elbows will be encouraged.
  • The School Committee has a meeting Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m.
  • Middle and high school students should come with laptops fully charged
  • Beaver Brook: School hours are 9 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. Parents can drop off their little learners starting at 8:45 a.m., in the loop adjacent to the schoolyard playground.
  • Woodsdale: School hours are 8:40 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Parents can drop off their stellar students starting at 8:20 a.m. along the sidewalk in front of the school.
  • Middle School: School hours are 7:50 a.m. to 2:22 p.m. Parents can drop off their awesome academics starting at 7:20 a.m. at Door 10 next to the tennis courts.
  • High School: School hours are 7:25 a.m. to 1:57 p.m. Parents may drop off their terrific teens at the gymnasium entrance starting at 7 a.m.

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