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    Local News
    Tuesday, February 07, 2023

    Preston students return to school without COVID-19 restrictions

    David Vacchina kisses his daughter Adalyn, 4, starting pre-kindergarten classes, goodbye as he drops her off for the first day of school with his wife Kaitlyn and her sister Molly, 18 months, at Preston Veterans Memorial School Monday Aug. 29, 2022. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    Kieley Langlois, right, hugs her daughter goodbye Laylah Wells, 10, starting fifth grade, as she drops her off for the first day of school at Preston Veterans Memorial School Monday August 29, 2022. The two held hands as they walked through the parking lot to the entrance. “I hope she never stops letting me walk her to the door,” said Langlois. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    August Wirta reaches out to hold hands with his cousin Lucille Horn, both 5 and starting kindergarten, before the first of school at Preston Veterans Memorial School Monday Aug. 29, 2022. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    Kristin Campbell puts a backpack on her son Grady, 4, starting pre-kindergarten classes, as her daughter Ella, 5, starting first grade, looks on as she drops them off for the first day of school at Preston Veterans Memorial School Monday Aug. 29, 2022. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    Rebecca Hayes hugs her son Jackson, 5, starting kindergarten, as her husband Chris looks on as they drop him off for the first day of school at Preston Veterans Memorial School Monday Aug. 29, 2022. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)

    Preston ― Students returned to school Monday at the Preston Plains Middle School and Preston Veterans’ Memorial School with several new things for the 2022-23 school year.

    COVID-19 mitigation strategies ’greatly relaxed’

    Superintendent Roy Seitsinger said he looks forward to the full return of all in-school and after-school activities, with COVID-19 protocols “greatly relaxed.” Preston schools started reintroducing after-school clubs last school year. Starting this year, he said, all clubs and usual seasonal and year-round activities are back.

    Bus swipe cards for middle school students

    Preston, which still runs its own bus fleet, will start a new bus safety program this year with swipe cards for students as they board and get off school buses. The program will start with middle school students. Students will swipe their cards as they board the bus, allowing school officials to track how many students ride each bus and where and when they board. Seitsinger said the system will help the school district manage bus routes during the ongoing shortage of bus drivers. Bus routes already have been altered due to the shortage.

    Once the bus tracking software is fully implemented, parents will be able to download an app and track their children’s bus route to know if the bus is on time and when the students should get to school or home.

    “We’re thinking about it for bus safety, rural roads, storms, but it just enhances all our bus safety features,” Seitsinger said.

    10 new staff members

    Over the past three school years, Preston’s two schools have seen about a 30% staff changeover, Seitsinger said, unusual for the small district. There are 10 new staff this year, giving the district “an excellent group of veterans and new staff,” Seitsinger said. He quickly added: “We are still looking for bus drivers.”

    Accreditation sought for preschool program

    Preston will begin the process this year to obtain national accreditation for the preschool program through the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The process can take up to two years. Seitsinger said he wanted to start this two years ago, but the process was interrupted by COVID-19. Preston has three preschool classes this year. Teachers, Principal Ray Bernier and the regional education agency, LEARN, will lead the process and will seek parental input as it progresses.

    Work on new five-year strategic plan to start in October

    The Preston school district will start work in October on the new five-year strategic plan for 2023-28 school years. The plan will include school data such as enrollment and test scores, include the district’s plan for technology upgrades and educational strategies.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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