What You Need To Know On The First Day of School

Bus routes, new staff and revised security measures at Newtown schools this year.

Newtown students return to school Tuesday, and the district has been busy implementing plans to transition into the new year as smoothly as possible. In past weeks, school officials have identified potential concerns ranging from bussing to new staff.

"It's already, for some kids, a day that has some anxiety to it because of all the new people you're going to meet," Interim Superintendent John Reed told Patch. "But it should be a pleasant, exciting time for kids."

Here's everything you need to know about what to expect from the first day of school. And don't forget to post your back-to-school photos on Patch using our open "Back to School" blog.

  • A high number of new staff are joining the district this year -- 11 administrators, 38 teachers and 13 more staff provided thanks to the district's $1.3 million School Emergency Response to Violence grant, obtained this summer.

    A new principal and two assistant principals will take the helm at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Kathleen Gombos joins the district from Bethel's R.M.T. Johnson Elementary School, where she served as principal for nine years. Thomas Einhorn joins the district from West Hartford as the new principal of Newtown Middle School, and former Thomaston principal Anne Uberti will take the leadership role at Reed Intermediate School

  • Over the weekend, Interim Superintendent John Reed sent parents and teachers a memo outlining the school's plans for security in the coming year. (The full memo is attached as a PDF.)

    Reed outlines a plan for contacting parents in the event of future "lock-in" drills: a notice that would be sent out through the school's Messenger System, beginning "ALL CHILDREN ARE SAFE."

    "The lockdown which occurred on June 10 because of a crank call received at Hawley School is an experience from which we have learned," Reed said. "We do not always need to go into a full lockdown drill because of such a call."

    Reed advised parents not to call or come to the school personally during lock-ins, as staff will be busy ensuring safety.

    Working with the assistance of CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Newtown school system will begin a full security analysis in September, Reed said.

  • Officials expect bus routes to take a "few days to normalize" at the beginning of the school year. At a Board of Education meeting last week, Reed told members a number of factors could cause delays, including drivers not used to the route under "real-time conditions" while transporting children. He asked parents to avoid photos as children are loading on the bus, to expedite the process.

    "There never was a year the busses were on time on the first or second day," he said.

    Reed said All-Star experienced a low turnover this year, meaning most drivers will be returning with experience, and added the company will work quickly to make any necessary adjustments. Click here to see a list of bus routes provided to Patch.

  • For students heading into high school and their parents, Principal Charles Dumais' blog is an invaluable resource. Dumais updates frequently with useful information, from opportunities for activities to explanations of new policy to highlighting the cool achievements of high school students.

    In the leadup to students' return, he's posted easy-to-understand explanations of the school's potentially confusing schedule and a full calendar of days for those who'd like to plan in advance.

    On Aug. 21, Dumais welcomed new and returning students to NHS with a Link Crew event designed to give incoming freshmen an opportunity to mingle with upper-classmen (and gain a mentor.) Dumais explained his vision to "change the first day of school" by focusing on socialization over rule-learning in the first days. Rulebooks will be sent home with students for review, he says.

  • Students at Reed Intermediate School will again have access to therapy dogs courtesy of TDI (Therapy Dogs International.) The program allows individual students and groups to spend up to two hours with a comfort dog designed to relieve tension and stress.


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