Alumni from the Assumption Catholic School in Bellevue pose for a group photo before touring the school building at an open house Sunday.
Xavier West, 6, who is starting first grade at Assumption School in Bellevue, fills out a name tag at the open house Sunday. Standing with him is his mother, Christina West.
New Winchester Thurston's north campus director, Laurie Vennes, shakes hands with students as they arrive for the second day of classes.
Curriculum additions, class times changes, computer lab improvements and introductions to new administrators greeted students who returned to North classrooms this week for the start of the 2013-14 year.
For some, summer vacation will continue for a few more days.
Here's a back-to-school roundup of school news, changes and events affecting many North students as they begin the new year:
Classes began Monday at Springdale Junior-Senior High School and Colfax Upper Elementary School and on Tuesday for Acmetonia Primary School students.
Colfax and Acmetonia received updated computer labs, according to Jan Zastawniak, district public relations director. The new technology for the buildings include additional Promethean interactive whiteboard systems and upgraded network switches in the primary school.
Springdale Junior-Senior High School will begin new courses in multimedia education at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels, and new Apple computers were purchased and added to the media production lab to support the classes, said Ms. Zastawniak.
Additional technology introduced in the high school is a new mobile lab, several Promethean boards, and ActiVote, a student response system used for assessment that enables teachers to poll students at any time during class to assess progress.
Through the integration of a $20,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics grant, students will focus on environmental education.
Also being instituted throughout the district is a new security network, the Raptor Identification System.
"Visitors will have to provide identification that will be scanned into the system and create an individualized photo ID for the building," Ms. Zastawniak said.
Also, an autistic classroom has been added to the high school. Every building now supports autistic classes. -- Roxanne Tuinstra
To mark the 100th anniversary of Assumption School in Bellevue providing a Catholic education to North Boros children in grades K-8, principal Mary Ann Miller said students, staff and alumni will be celebrating throughout the year with events such as a Veterans Day celebration, a luncheon for former staff and priests and the burying of a time capsule.
Classes started on Tuesday. Enrollment has remained steady since last year at 113. Lunch costs $2.50.
Ms. Miller said the school has purchased additional laptop computers this year, so that there is one for every five students. She said they also will implement a new reading curriculum for K-6 students, based on Common Core standards.
Thrilled with the huge communitywide turnout for Assumption School's most recent alumni event, Ms. Miller noted that the school is very alumni- and community-oriented.
"We're small," she said. "But, we have a big voice and presence in the community. Everyone here is so spirited and accepting." -- Jill Cueni-Cohen
A.W. Beattie Career Center
Classes resumed on Tuesday with new session times. New principal Wesley Kuchta said morning session classes begin 15 minutes earlier this year -- 7:45 to 10:15 a.m. -- and the afternoon session is noon to 2:30 p.m.
Mr. Kuchta said that enrollment is 665 -- slightly higher this year.
New equipment, including the Amatrol Rigging Learning Components Systems and a Marcraft-Greenstem Technology module will be used to teach students in carpentry and heating/ventilation/air conditioning how to move loads of different shapes and sizes safely.
A series of grants from the state Department of Education have enabled the school to purchase a variety of machines and equipment which will prepare Beattie's students for job opportunities in this region's advanced manufacturing and human services sectors.
The introduction of this equipment has prompted Beattie administers to change the name of their robotics course to Agile Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing, said Mr. Kuchta. He added that the school is now offering a second Advertising and Design course, which also implements new equipment from the grant. -- Jill Cueni-Cohen
Cheswick Christian Academy
The school, which offers a Christian education for grades K-12, has increased tuition from $3,060 to $3,240, according to Star Laliberte, office manager.
Founded in 1978, the school has an average class size of 15. Officials said 90 percent of their graduates go on to higher education or the military. -- Roxanne Tuinstra
Students returned Monday to find the high school auditorium renovated by the maintenance department over the summer. The district will add an SAT prep class, which will be available during the day. Both anatomy and physiology classes will be available online.
The middle school is piloting a Response to Instruction/Intervention program. Upgrades in technology in the classroom have been made at the East Union Intermediate Center and Curtisville Primary Center. Thanks to a grant from PPG, a Reading Garden has been installed at East Union. They also have new science books for the third-grade students.
The district received a "Pirate Field for Kids" grant sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirate charities which, along with a matching grant of $5,000, will be used to renovate the surface of the high school baseball field.
Angelo Furiga, director of technology, also will assume the role of curriculum coordinator.
Lunch prices increased by a dime to $2.10 at Curtisville and East Union Schools and $2.35 at the middle and high schools. -- Kathleen Ganster
Eden Christian Academy
School started Monday at the Christian school with campuses in Ross, Pine and Ohio Township. At the Upper School (Mt. Nebo campus), a new field house has been completed and there is a new baseball field. Students in grades 7-12 each will receive their own iPad for classroom use this year. -- Kathleen Ganster
Fox Chapel Area
A new principal, Jonathan Nauhaus, greeted students last Thursday at Dorseyville Middle School when students returned. He succeeds Matthew Harris who became coordinator of instruction earlier this summer. Mr. Nauhaus had been the assistant principal at Dorseyville since 2007.
Taking his place as assistant principal is James Prager, who had been assistant principal at O'Hara Elementary School since 2008.
Rebecca Stephan, former assistant principal at Pine-Richland Middle School, is the new Fairview Elementary School principal, and Rachel Fischbaugh, assistant principal at Carson Middle School in the North Allegheny School District, is new principal at Hartwood Elementary School.
High school curriculum changes will help students with the science portion of the state's new Keystone Exams. Also at the high school, world music and the history of rock 'n roll have been added to meeting diverging student interests.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine has become a new focus at all Fox Chapel Area schools. Renovations at the high school will make room for STEMM and technology education.
In addition, several elementary teachers have developed project-based learning opportunities incorporating STEMM concepts in helping the district's youngest students develop creative problem-solving skills.
Project-based learning will be introduced to at Dorseyville, when the district provides iPads to each seventh-grade student beginning in January. The pilot program is designed to meet the needs of the 21st century learners and prepare them for collegiate and workplace expectations. -- Rita Michel
Math in Focus is a big change in the curriculum this year for students who returned to classes on Monday.
The teachers began extensive training in the new math program last spring and, according to a report from the administration presented to the school board before school ended last spring, responded very positively to the material. Teachers continued their training in the materials over the summer and the new concepts will be introduced to elementary students beginning this fall.
The change to Math in Focus is to meet the state's new Common Core standards, which require a more specific concentration on various concepts at each step in the learning process, beginning at the kindergarten level.
After many retirements in response to the district's early-retirement incentive program offered in June, the school board has hired 40 new teachers and staff members in all grade levels throughout the district.
Enrollment is 3,027 and administration is expecting possibly to open another half-day kindergarten class at Wyland Elementary School. -- Rita Michel
Classes started Monday with approximately 3,239 students -- up from 3,191 in 2012-13 and 3,132 in 2011-12.
James Budzilek began work in this month as the superintendent-designate. He will take over as superintendent when William Pettigrew retires in December.
Students at the high school will receive laptops to use for school work under the district's One-to-One (1:1) Computer Initiative. The district established the program because its curriculum is becoming more technology-driven with online textbooks and computer-based assignments.
Students at the primary center, elementary school and Centennial school will have a new start time -- 9:05 a.m., five minutes later. Morning kindergarten will end at 11:43 a.m. and afternoon kindergarten will begin at 12:47 p.m.
Elementary teachers will begin their day at 8:20 a.m. and student arrival time will be moved from 8:30 to 8:50 a.m., with afternoon kindergartners arriving after 12:32 p.m. Parents who drive their children to school will not be permitted to drop off students at school until 8:50 a.m.
The time change eliminates the need for teachers to have a planning period at the end of the day and will allow for greater supervision of students at dismissal time, Mr. Pettigrew said.
Construction projects include a driveway connecting Mars Area Elementary School with Three Degree Road. The new driveway will be used by school buses to transport students among the three elementary schools to avoid traffic congestion on Route 228. The district is also expanding the bleachers at the Mars Athletic Complex.
Many new policies were approved by the school board during the past school year, covering attendance, bullying and technology, among others. They can be viewed at www.marsk12.org. -- Sandy Trozzo
When students returned to school Monday, they found several new administrators and initiatives.
Three of the administrators are in the district's central office. Robert J. Scherrer is the new assistant superintendent of K-12 education, Gwynn Maximo is the supervisor of special education and pupil services, and Patricia Tkacik is the coordinator of special education and the Title IX officer.
Daniel O'Rourke is the assistant principal of Carson Middle School. Daniel Swoger is the assistant principal at Ingomar Middle School, and Colleen Hannagan is the assistant principal of McKnight Elementary School.
Amanda Mathieson is the new principal of Hosack Elementary School. She was formerly the assistant principal at Ingomar Middle. Rachel Fields, who has been assistant principal at both McKnight and Marshall elementary schools, will be at Marshall full time..
The district added walls and doors to all classrooms at Hosack Elementary School in McCandless, which was built in 1972 with an open classroom design. The move was recommended as part of a security study.
Prices were increased to $2.75 for middle and high school lunches and $2.25 for elementary lunches. New registers with touch screens were also installed in all cafeterias.
There are several new educational initiatives. Teachers in grades 1 through 5 will be fully implementing "Rocket Math" -- a supplemental math curriculum for sequential practice and mastery of math facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There will be approximately 10 minutes of instruction dedicated to this program each day.
Students in kindergarten through second grade will have new science materials which utilize a hands-on approach and problem-solving skills. The program began last year for third through fifth grades.
Students at the intermediate high school will see enhanced health and wellness initiatives. Each month, a schoolwide activity is planned to encourage healthy living habits or introduce students and staff to new resources and ideas. Programs will include building a personal "wellness toolbox," healthy winter weather activities and nutritious faculty "pot-luck" luncheons.
The staff development classroom at Marshall Middle School has become a "technology learning hub" to provide teachers with a place to explore digital literacy. New equipment includes laptops, PCs and an Apple TV. It will use a "flipped classroom model," allowing teachers to experiment with science probes, test out apps and share successful ideas. -- Sandy Trozzo
The school year started Wednesday with several new administrators.
Superintendent Brian R. Miller took on his new position July 1.
He is the district's seventh superintendent of schools. Mr. Miller comes from the North Allegheny School District, where he had been assistant superintendent of K-12 education.
Caitlin Bogosta is the new assistant principal at the middle school, and Laura Burns is the new assistant principal at the high school.
Steven M. Smith was recently named principal at Eden Upper Elementary School.
He had been a principal and assistant principal in Seneca Valley.
The district has also hired a new food service general manager. Diane Bucknum is taking over for Cherry Cerminara. The two will work together through December as a transition. Ms. Buckman has a master of science degree in nutrition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist. She has worked in school food service for the past five years and for Sodexo for 15 years.
Projected enrollment is 4,700. -- Laure Cioffi
Classes started Monday for grades K-9 and Tuesday for grades 10-12.
The district begins the year with the theme "Re-Imagine QV" in which administrators will "explore opportunities to re-imagine teaching and learning, the distribution of resources, organizational structures and its use of time."
Officials will host three curriculum forums throughout the school year. Each will be led by Jillian Bichsel, director of academic services and will inform families about educational programs and how the district is re-imagining teaching and learning.
Lunch prices will increase by 10 cents to $2.60 for all students. Breakfast prices will remain $1.50. At all elementary schools, there will be a daily featured menu and five alternative meals. At the middle school, in addition to the daily featured menu, there will be pizza made with fresh dough, an international station, hot sandwiches, and a made-to-order deli/salad station. The high school will have sandwiches, self-serve pizzas, and a made-to-order fresh deli/salad station. Menus are posted on the district website under Quick Links.
Sixth-graders in the middle school will be introduced to Mandarin Chinese as part of the exploratory languages program.
The middle school will introduce Apps for Life, a program in conjunction with the school's positive behavior support system that will highlight a positive characteristic each month. -- Shellie Petri Budzeak
Students paid paying higher cafeteria prices when classes resumed Wednesday.
Lunch prices for kindergarten through sixth grade will be $2 and secondary students pay $2.50. Breakfast will remain at $1.45 for kindergarten through 12th grade.
There are approximately 7,300 pupils enrolled at Seneca Valley.
There will be some new faces in district administration this year.
Jodi Perry is the new principal at the intermediate high school. She replaced Alan Cumo, who retired. Ms. Perry was formerly an assistant principal at the high school and she was replaced by Jeffrey Roberts.
Vincent D'Angelo is the new assistant principal at Rowan and Connoquenessing Valley elementary schools. Denise Mangello is the new principal of the cyber program and the Outreach Partnership of Technology and Anthony Conti is the new assistant principal in the cyber and outreach programs.
Marie Palano is the temporary principal at Evans City Middle School while Sandra Krivak-Fowler is on medical leave.
Work has also begun on new captured entrances in the middle school, intermediate high school and senior high school. Captured entrances are mechanisms that route visitors through the school offices. The work should be completed by November. -- Laure Cioffi
Winchester-Thurston School/North campus in Hampton started classes last Thursday. Laurie Vennes, the new director of the campus, welcomed students with Winchester-Thurston's traditional handshake morning greeting.
Mrs. Vennes has 21 years of public and private school experience, most recently from the Lexington School in Lexington, Ky.
The North campus also launched a new reading and writing project, The Readers and Writers Workshop focuses on a multidisciplinary approach utilizing mini-lessons, self-reflection, small-group direct instruction and group discussions as models for teaching. -- Kathleen Ganster