NORTH READING – It will be a somewhat late return to the classroom for North Reading students on Monday, Sept. 8. Somewhat later than usual anyway. Due to the new high school construction project, the School Committee wisely decided to delay the opening of all grades by five days to provide an extra margin of comfort in opening the new state-of-the-art high school.

Grades one through 12 will report back to classes on Sept. 8. Preschool and kindergarten students and their parents will have their orientation sessions on Sept. 8 and 9. Kindergarten classes will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 10. Preschool classes begin on Thursday, Sept. 11. And ahead lies 180 days that will be educationally rewarding, challenging and fun for all.

The big news, of course, for 2014 and what makes Sept. 8 an historic day for North Reading Schools will be the opening of the new North Reading High School, a construction project that began two years ago. As part of the $122 million project, the old high school building is now the temporary middle school and will play host to students in grades 6-8 for the next school year. The old Middle School on Sherman Road is in an advanced state of demolition and will be totally rebuilt. The old modular classrooms have been demolished and removed. The front of the building has been significantly altered, the roof and the front overhang are gone, along with the superintendent’s and business office, which will be replaced with classrooms. A new space for administrative offices will be constructed at the left of the building. When the new Middle School opens in September of 2015, no one will recognize it.

The high school received its occupancy permit on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and student–guided tours were  held for the senior, junior and sophomore classes that day. A walk–through of the building with the students showed a beehive of activity still going on with a lot of work still to be done in the next five days. But Principal Jon Bernard and School Committee member Jerry Venezia said a tremendous amount had been accomplished in just the last few days and the school will definitely open on Sept. 8.

Both the middle school (old high school) and new high school will have significantly altered traffic patterns this year. At the middle school, the new drop off and pickup traffic plan for parents will be focused on the gymnasium side of the building.

All parent vehicle traffic before and after school will be limited to the gymnasium side of the middle school (old high school). From 7:05 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., only, parents may drop off and pick up students at the main entrance.

All bus traffic will be on the main entrance side of the middle school.

Since the high school is a completely new building, it’s not surprising the traffic pattern is new, also. School buses only will arrive and depart the new high school via Sherman Road and Oakdale Road. This front entrance is the only authorized entrance for students who are dropped off and leaving by school bus.

All student, parent, faculty and staff access and parking at the new school are via the Park Street entrance. The access road travels past the old high school around the right side of the new high school to the main parking lot and rear building entrance. This is the only authorized entrance to the school from the main parking lot. Afternoon dismissal and pickup from the rear of the new high school will be via the high school access road to Park Street.

The Secondary Schools Building Committee and the school department are planning a grand opening community ceremony and public tours of the new school on Saturday, Sept. 20. The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. with tours of the building following starting at 10 a.m. Watch the Transcript for more information.

New faculty

There will be 14 new teachers, three paraprofessionals and one school psychologist joining the public schools this year to fill vacancies created by new positions, retirements and resignations.

At the Batchelder School, the new faces belong to art teacher Aurelia Beane and kindergarten teacher Tara Kenyon.

At the Hood School, special education teachers Amanda Kennedy and Jolene Danian and paraprofessional Nancy Sexton are new.

The Little School will welcome secretary Lisa Tavoletti, who started last January, plus speech and language pathologist Jennifer Matthies and inclusion paraprofessional Maria Socci.

At the Middle School, new teachers are school psychologist Carly Greenstein, French and Spanish teacher Lacey LaHaie and math and science teacher Robert McSheffrey.

There are also new faces at the high school: Andrew Dexter will teach art; Kelly Gilbert will teach special education; Michelle Caulfield will teach math; Suzanne Passeri will teach special education; Samantha Whitney will teach health, and Kevin Lentini, (NRHS Class of 2009) will teach Humanities.

There are also new faces at the district level. Edwin Tarraza will fill the vacant technology technician position for hardware and network support, Nathan Campbell is the new digital learning coordinator, Maureen Ryan is the secondary special education coordinator and Kristin Burke is the elementary special education coordinator.

There will be two full day, district wide professional development days scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 4 and Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. Five early release days are built into the calendar for professional collaboration. The calendar includes five built in “snow days” (let’s hope for a mild winter) that would put the tentative end of the school year at June 26, 2015.

This year the Batchelder will be the “late” elementary school and the Hood and Little will be the early elementary schools. School hours at the high school and middle school remain the same.

Parents new to the district are reminded that North Reading Public Schools have a bus user fee. A discount was applied to passes acquired before Aug. 18. The pre-Aug. 18 cost for individual passes is $300 per year, with a family maximum of $500. Payments received after Aug. 18 require a payment of $350 (family maximum $550). One may pay by check or money order. Payments can also be made by credit card on line. See the “School Busing FAQs” in today’s paper for the link to the school district website. A small additional fee will be charged for on line credit card payments.

The School Busing FAQs give a complete introduction to the school busing system and precede the list of bus routes in today’s edition. Also, don’t miss Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Willis’s final “Back to School Letter to parents and Children” in the letter section of today’s paper, full of more information about the coming school year. Willis will retire in October after leading the district for four years.