THE BIG MOVE - Ninth grade transition easier than expected
WOODBRIDGE - Anna Bialek and Sean Nash admitted they were a little apprehensive Tuesday about moving from their junior high schools into new modular classrooms at Amity High School.
But Bialek, of Woodbridge, and Nash, of Orange, who are both freshmen, said after the transition was completed they had nothing to worry about and they looked forward to finally being at the high school.
"It is going OK. I am not nervous and am glad to be at the high school," Bialek said.
"I was a little nervous at first but the interaction with people has been good so far. I feel pretty comfortable," Nash said.
Bialek, Nash, and hundreds of Amity freshmen made the big move Tuesday as ninth-graders attending Bethany and Orange junior highs were placed into portable classrooms at Amity High in Woodbridge. The ninth-graders will remain in portable classrooms until an expansion project at the high school is completed. The ninth-graders will use the high school for lunch and gym class.
Students at Orange Junior High also moved into portable classrooms Tuesday morning, and officials said that went smoothly. Students at Bethany Junior High will move into their modular classrooms Monday. Both junior high schools will be renovated and the high school will be expanded by 90,000-square-feet. The renovation project costs $68.5 million.
From the moment ninth-graders entered the front doors of the high school they were made to feel at home. Signs welcoming them adorned the doors. Link Crew junior and senior high students were everywhere offering directions.
The Link Crew program was implemented for the first time this year. It engaged upper classmen to act as mentors to incoming freshmen. The upper classmen wore long sleeve black t-shirts identifying themselves.
The entire move was orchestrated, beginning with opening ceremonies that took place in the spacious high school gymnasium. When the kids entered the gym they were greeted by loud music and cheers. And interactive activities engaged them for the next hour.
High School Principal Ed Goldstone said he was pleased with the transition.
"It is really going well. I give credit to the committee that spent the whole weekend preparing for today," Goldstone said.
Link Crew Member, Leigh Garrack, Orange, said she was glad to lend a hand.
"I was happy to help," she said. "An additional benefit was that the Link Crew got to know each other. We have learned how to work together and make others comfortable."
Garrack said the smiles on the students' faces illuminated the fact that the move is "working and going great."
Lindsey Arnold, an Orange freshman, said that the experience has been positive.
"I have met some really nice people and gotten many hugs," she said.
But she said she wished that the modulars would not have been placed in the rear of the school.
"I am not thrilled to be in the modulars, but they seem to be nice. They are probably in better condition than the school is," she said.
Parent Karen Arnold, who was on hand for the move and helped with the weekend training, said the ninth-graders were excited.
"The kids were very enthusiastic about the move and positive about the juniors and seniors working with the freshmen. The initial phone calls to the freshman (that Link Crew mentors made) made all the difference in the world. Many fears were alleviated," she said.
While the students dealt with the transition, the modulars still have some work that needs to be completed. Although the Certificate of Occupancy and all required permits were obtained some repairs and adjustments still need to be made.
A plan to have a clean walkway to the modulars and up the stairs needs to be worked out and ceiling tiles in the teachers lounge and modular Room M-1 have to be replaced.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Brady said he would be addressing those issues and the reason the tiles need to be replaced deals with the installation of pipes and not because of roof leaks.
Another inconvenience was the congested entrance from Newtown Road into the high school. According to various school officials buses waited patiently with students for their turn to drop them off.
Goldstone said many students arrived with their parents.
"There were more drop offs than usual. We will probably need help from the Woodbridge Police Department to work out the traffic flow," Goldstone said.
All in all Goldstone was optimistic about the day.
"The modulars themselves are an impressive set up. They are bright and spacious. They will be a good learning environment. They are not roughing it at all," Goldstone