Old Rochester schools prepare to welcome new, returning students

Aug 22, 2023

Across the Tri-Town kids are stuffing their backpacks with school supplies and preparing for another year in the classroom.

And while students spent the last few months enjoying the summer, school administrators and principals have been putting in the work to make sure that everything is in place for the first day back to school on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

“Although the school year ends and the joy of summer is upon us all, we spend the first month or so [of summer] wrapping up the previous school year,” said Old Rochester Regional School District Superintendent Mike Nelson.

From balancing the previous year’s budget to meetings about future curriculum and student success, Nelson said that the summer is when much of the planning for the next school year happens.

This year, the Old Rochester Regional School District hopes to implement its new five-year plan, “Vision 2028,” pending a vote from the Old Rochester Regional Joint School Committee.

According to Nelson, Vision 2028 plans to make sure that “our curriculum, pre-K through graduation, meets best practice in the needs of our students as we see them here locally.” The plan will also build support systems for students, ensure a positive and inclusive learning environment, and maintain safety for students, staff and visitors at Old Rochester schools.

But Nelson said that for parents and guardians of Old Rochester students, one of the most visible changes in the 2023-24 school year will be a new district-wide literacy program designed to bring all three towns’ elementary schools onto the same page.

The literacy program, called “Into Reading,” was spearheaded by Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Shari Fedorowicz.

“In light of new research regarding the science of reading, I think we timed it perfectly in terms of having our teachers help guide what the future literacy would look like [in the district],” said Nelson.

He added that what he’s “most excited about” is that all three town’s elementary schools “cohesively made this decision, which means that moving forward, from a literacy standpoint, our junior high school will see very consistent data regarding where our students are doing well and where there's opportunities for for growth.”

On the elementary level, schools have “already started setting up professional development, coaching for teachers [and] making sure we have time for them to build into their weekly schedule to get support with that program," said Sippican School Principal Marla Brown, formerly Marla Sirois.

But projects and programs aren’t the only things that Old Rochester administrators have spent time on this summer.

At Old Rochester Regional High School, Principal Mike Devoll spent his summer personally meeting incoming Bulldogs.

“I offer every freshman a 30-minute meeting where we review life at the high school … I call it their own personal orientation,” said Devoll, who added that sometimes an incoming freshman will leave this meeting with a completely different academic schedule.

“I want you to be successful as a freshman,” said Devoll. “High school is four long years. Let's make freshman year about being happy. If you're not going to be happy … let's fix [your schedule] right now so that you can have the best year you can.”

But for all the preparation that goes into planning for the new school year, nothing beats day one, said Nelson.

“What I love about the beginning of a new school year is the sense of optimism,” said Nelson. “I love the excitement that grows and I know some people are sad to see the summer fade away however … I love the sense that anything is possible.”