Except for the heat, first day of school was OK

Photo Courtesy of Carteret Elementary School The annual ice cream social welcoming kindergarteners to Carteret Elementary was enjoyed Aug. 30. From left, above, are the Petgraves, Ryan, third grade; Shawn, kindergarten; Brianna, fourth grade; and mother, Angella.
Photo Courtesy of Carteret Elementary School
The annual ice cream social welcoming kindergarteners to Carteret Elementary was enjoyed Aug. 30. From left, above, are the Petgraves, Ryan, third grade; Shawn, kindergarten; Brianna, fourth grade; and mother, Angella.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The school bell rang last week to officially end summer vacation for Bloomfield elementary school children. On Wednesday, Sept 7, girls and boys were at their desks again after a schoolyard regaling to friends of a summertime exploit or the surprise from seeing someone 3 inches taller. Then, into the building and getting down to business with workbooks passed out and teachers reviewing appropriate behavior and expectations. And what first day would be complete without a classroom visit by the school principal?

What follows are comments and observations from district principals.
• At Watsessing Elementary School, Gina Rosamilia is beginning her fifth year as principal. This week Watsessing had 315 students, she said. Last year at this time, there were 305 students.

“The first day went very smooth,” she said. “Everyone is ready to be back.”
Rosamilia has 39 kindergarteners and there are two sections for all grades except the fourth grade, which had three sections. The behavioral-disorder classes have decreased. Last year there were three sections but now there are two because of promotions to the middle school.

There is a new music teacher, Ashley Forster, who will be shared with Brookdale Elementary. Jennifer Marsden is the new resource teacher and Lauren Herzog will be teaching fifth grade. She was on maternity leave from December to June.

Locust Avenue, alongside the school parking lot and a prime drop-off area, is now a one-way. Rosamilia thanked the Bloomfield Police Department, the Watsessing Home and School, and the mayor and council for that change.
“No more K-turns,” she added.

The grounds have been weeded and there are new flower plantings, thanks again to the H&S. The hot weather was an issue.

“Last week was very hot,” Rosamilia said. “We made sure if classes were not air conditioned, we moved them to the library on the third floor. The first and second floors are mostly not air conditioned.”

The teachers had a two-hour security briefing and the first fire drill will be this week. On Monday, the school observed the Sept. 11 anniversary with a moment of silence and classroom activities.

• At Carteret, Principal John Baltz said there were 422 students enrolled, about the same as last year.

“Today we got three new students,” he said this past Monday.
The ice-cream social he had for kindergarteners and parents, at the end of summer, helped the newest kids feel comfortable the first few days.
“It alleviates a lot of anxiety,” he said.

Two new teachers have started at Carteret. There is first-grade teacher, Nicole Couto.

“She’s a Bloomfield school system kid,” Baltz said.
And there is Kelley Collovio, a second-grade teacher. Baltz said this week he plans on having the required fire drill, lock-down and building evacuation. It is his fifth year as Carteret principal.

“It feels like we never left,” he said. “The teachers picked up where we left off.”
He said Sept. 11 was observed in the classrooms and there was going to be a school assembly to go over school rules.

• At Demarest, Mary Todaro is starting her ninth year as principal.
“We have 522 kids right now,” she said. “A few less than in June. We ended last year at 530.”

Last week’s hot weather was everywhere.
“We knew it was going to be hot,” Todaro said. “We invited the teachers to relocate to the basement.”

She said it was cooler outside in the shade than it was inside the school building and teachers also took advantage of this.

For the first day of kindergarten, she said there were one or two criers but no big scenes. The school had its first fire drill last Friday, the third day of school. The school was evacuated in one minute, 15 seconds. The lockdown and the evacuation still have to be done with the evacuation on a cooler day. Todaro said she also did not want to have too many drills right away.

“The first few weeks are very important to establish what happens in school,” she said. “I try not to disrupt the routine.”

There is one new teacher, Erin Balter, an art teacher.
Todaro said there were a lot off facility improvements over the summer, including a new roof, new bleachers and a cheerful, off-white linoleum floor on the second floor.

She said the nurse had some work to do with a few scrapes coming in from the playground, but nothing much.

For Sept 11, students were asked to perform an act of kindness.
“You don’t talk about death to children,” Todaro said. “You talk about heroes.”
For the principal, opening day was great with everyone in their seats within 15 minutes of the bell.

“It was an outstanding first day,” she said. “There were about 20 people in the office but by 8:35, everyone was at work. Books were handed out, rules of the school were discussed and there were class meeting for teachers and students to get acquainted.

• Marianne Abbasso has been principal at Franklin Elementary for eight years. At the start of this week, she had 355 students; at the end of last school year, she had 338. Abbasso said there was one new teacher, Shane Haimack, a transfer from Oak View Elementary, who teaches fourth grade.

“We were good with the heat,” Abbasso said. “We had fans and the teachers brought the kids to the basement. Or they went to the trailers. Believe it or not, it was cooler outside in the study park.”

She said the first fire drill will be at the end of this week. And for parents of kindergarteners, there was the annual send-off.

“We had a boo-hoo breakfast,” Abbasso said. “The children went to class and the parents went to the study park.”

At the study park, the parents were offered refreshment by the Franklin Home and School Association.

Abbasso said the summer facility improvements were great and included new boys’ and girls’ bathrooms and new gates that will be closed at 9:15 each morning.

She said Sept. 11 will be commemorated tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 16. There will be a moment of silence and teachers will have separate activities.

“It’s exciting to see the kids again,” Abbasso said. “I love my staff. I had a wonderful summer so don’t get me wrong. But it’s wonderful be be back.”
• Sal DeSimone has been the Fairview Elementary principal for 17 years. At the beginning of this week, he had 562 students.

“We closed with 560 in June,” he said. “When the dust settles, it remains relatively the same.”

He said parents handed out ice pops to help with the hot weather and there is a classroom on the ground floor with an air conditioner.
“The third floor has a chiller,” he said. “It’s some sort of air conditioner and takes the edge off the heat.”

Fairview has a number of new teachers. There is Sara Munson, a music teacher; physical education teacher Jeniffer Zarro, who is coming over from Bloomfield High School; and special-education teachers Dawn Rabbia, Christian Thompson and Shavonne Montesano. Erin Shneider has been hired as a fourth-grade teacher for a maternity leave. Andrew Rohloff is another new fourth-grade teacher.

“I am happy to report that our kindergarten has 23 children in three sections,” DeSimone said. “Last year, we had three sections and 28 children. But we do have a big first grade. There are four sections. There are also four sections in grades three and four, and three sections in grades five and six.”

He said the start of the kindergarten classes went unbelievably smooth.
There have also been substantial facility improvement at Fairview that were done over the summer. They include a new roof, new stage curtains and the ground floor has been resurfaced, DeSimone said.

“The new school year really gets my blood going,” he said.
• At Oak View, Mary DiTrani is beginning her sixth year. At the beginning of the week, she had 378 students enrolled, three more than the end of last year.

The new teachers at the school are Marissa Aliotta, fifth-grade; Shannen Delabar, kindergarten; and Sabrina Farrugia, Blanca Ortiz and Vanessa Carbalho, who will be teaching in self-contained autism classes. Carbalho is a transfer from the Bloomfield Early Childhood Center. DiTrani said there has been an increase this year in the number of self-contained autism classes, from three to four.
But other classes remain the same.

“We have 58 kindergarteners in three sections,” DiTrani said. “We’re holding steady.”

All her section are status quo. The kindergarten, first-, second- and fifth-grade classes have three sections each; and grades three, four and six each have two sections.

There have been improvements to the facilities. They include new gym bleachers, a new child-study team office and a basement classroom has been become the resource center.

She is expecting to practice the lockdown and fire-drill exercises this week. There was a Sept. 11 ceremony on Friday, Sept. 9.

“It’s great to be back,” DiTrani said. “There are a lot of new initiatives and all will help students understand the curriculum better.”

She said her teachers were eager to get back, with many showing up the last weeks of August to prepare their classrooms.

• At Brookdale, Principal Joseph Fleres is beginning his fifth year. He has 351 students. At the end of June, he had 360.

“We’re holding steady,” he said.
There are a number of new teachers. Ashley Foster, a music teacher, will be shared with Watsessing; Rebecca Rodgers, a new fifth-grade teacher, and Christina Testa, a first-grade teacher, will be filling in for a maternity leave. Donna Sobol, a primary interventionist, will be shared with Oak View.
The hot weather was not a problem, according to Fleres.

“We kept the kids hydrated,” he said. “Nothing we’re not used to.”
Classrooms commemorated Sept. 11 individually and the school observed a moment of silence. The kindergarten has 16 children in three sections.
“The first day went really good,” Fleres said. “No crying.”

He attributed that success in large part to the two kindergarten playdates Brookdale scheduled over the summer for incoming students. Fleres said the first day was exciting for him and the teachers are really ready to go.

• At Berkeley Elementary, Natashia Baxter is beginning her second year. She has 457 students so far. At the end of the last year, she had 448.

New teachers include fifth-grade teacher Dana Henderson; special-education teacher Tiffany Muvceski; resource teachers Amanda DeSimone and Trudy Jones; and learning consultant Susan Gubkin.

There are a total of 54 children in three kindergarten sections at Berkeley. Baxter said the first day for her newest students was wonderful. She said this was helped along by an orientation that included the cartoon character Dory, from the movie “Finding Dory.”

“There were more tears from the parents than the kids,” Baxter said.
On Monday of this week, Sept. 11 was commemorated with students and teachers wearing red, white and blue. There was also a moment of silence. Posters and essays were also created by the students.

“My first day was very busy,” Baxter said. “There were a lot of parents out front wanting to know where their children should be.”

Baxter said this information had been provided on the school website.
“I spent a considerable amount of time with the early-bird parents,” she said. “I had lunch duty and then I went to the classrooms.”

All Bloomfield schools will have Back-to-School Night on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.