Niskayuna welcomes students back for first day

Elementary and middle school students with the Niskayuna Central School District headed back to the classroom Wednesday. It’s the first district in the Capital Region to go back to school this year.

All high school classes will begin on Thursday.

With backpacks busting at the seams and plenty of smiles under their masks, students at Birchwood Elementary headed back to the classroom for the first day of school. It was equally exciting for teachers and staff.

"This year can really be a celebration of teaching and learning. I think there’s a new appreciation for being in school," said Assistant Superintendent Marie Digirolamo.

This year, the district is brining students back into the classroom, in person, full time.

"It’s about those relationships and building those relationships," said Debra Berndt, principal at Birchwood Elementary. "That can only really be done in school, in the classroom, face to face."

Filling learning gaps is a big priority for the district.

"We know that there will be unfinished learning from last year, and March before that. We have teachers in classrooms that are skilled at identifying where students are and teaching to that need," Digirolamo said. "With some federal funds, we’ve been able to bring on additional reading intervention teachers and some teaching assistants for math support."

The district is also working with Capital Region BOCES to make an online option available for students with medical needs. For families that have identified a medical need, the district says they’ll be providing more details soon. Anyone who has not reached out about a medical need can do so by contacting the district’s Office of Instruction.

With an unclear picture of how the fall would look with the Delta variant, the district says it understood a delay in getting reopening guidance from the state. It implemented successful strategies from last year into their plan ahead of time, like wearing a mask.

"We knew before the mandate that this was the direction we were heading in, so it was a nice reassurance to hear that," Digirolamo said after Governor Hochul announced a mask mandate earlier this month for all schools.