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GROTON — “School days, school days, here we go off to school again ” These are depressing lyrics perhaps for some children, but if plans in the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District unfold as expected, the transition from those carefree days of summer into the academic year will be painless.

The principals in all the schools report that special activities designed to make returning students feel welcome are planned for their return on Aug. 30.

“Ninth-grade orientation will set a very positive tone for us,” said Groton-Dunstable Regional High School Principal Joseph Dillon. “It will certainly be a day where new students will get a good flavor of the school academically, socially and in all other ways.”

Over 100 of the high school’s 830 students have been involved in planning freshman orientation, he said, with all kinds of get-to-know-you activities lined up.

Not expected to throw a damper on the occasion is the school’s continuing water problem with bottled water being brought in as it has over the last two years. The good news is that a new company was hired to study the lead contamination in the water.

“We have a beautiful building here, and we look forward to using all of its technology and everything else that comes with it in the coming year to help students do their best,” said Dillon.

The first day of classes for all grades at the high school is Aug. 31.

Not to be outdone are the district’s elementary schools. Big things are planned for the recently-refurbished Prescott School including a renovated ventilation system.

“We’re getting there,” said Prescott Principal Betty Lavin. “We had a lot of things happening here this summer with asbestos insulation removed from the plumbing and new carpeting laid down in a couple of rooms. Also, our mechanical ventilators are being replaced in order to minimize the presence of carbon dioxide in the air.”

Lavin wanted to assure parents especially that carbon dioxide is not particularly dangerous to the children.

But the changes at Prescott have not been limited to the indoors.

“All the templates on our playground including checkers, four square, basketball, hopscotch and the U.S. map have all been repainted,” said Lavin. “It looks great, and we’re also officially opening our penguin walking trail.

“The penguin is Prescott’s mascot and the initiative for the trail was begun by our school council,” she said. “The whole thing comes to one eighth of a mile, and the kids will be introduced to it and have the opportunity to walk it using pedometers.

This year, Lavin said, Prescott’s student body will include 224 students ranging from kindergarten to grade four.

“For opening day on Aug. 30, we’ll do our traditional flag-raising ceremony,” she said. “The kids will gather out back and circle the flagpole and then walk in through the front door where they will each be high-fived by the principal.

“Also on the first day, kindergartners will be restricted to a practice ride on the bus. For them, school will really begin on Aug. 31,” she said.

As an added treat, Lavin said fourth-graders this year will receive brand new math text books.

At Florence Roche Elementary School, the children will get to enjoy a brand new playground courtesy of district officials who pulled strings and burned the midnight oil in order to make sure the school’s playground would be ready for the first day of school.

“Things are really shaping up,” said Florence Roche Principal Launa Zimmaro. “We’re really excited. There are a lot of things in place now and more to come. The building itself is just sparkling from all the cleaning done over the summer, and the new playground should be ready for students in time for opening day on Aug. 31.

“Also, we have new computers for our computer lab,” she said.

The area surrounding the new playground has been marked off with the first coat of asphalt that was laid last week, according to Zimmaro. By Monday, the final coat is expected to be down and Zimmaro said all the playground equipment should be installed.

Zimmaro characterized the effort to get the playground ready as nothing short of “heroic.”

Another new additions at Florence Roche is the installation of a lost-and-found area near the cafeteria that is expected to give children less of an excuse for having lost items. A total of eight new staff members have also been added including custodians, teachers and secretaries.

Students at Florence Roche start school on Aug. 30 with an orientation including an all-school assembly.

“We will hold the assembly in order to welcome all of our returning and new students,” said Zimmaro. “It’s basically a chance for them to begin to get familiar with their teachers and classroom routine. We’ll just go over some basic things such as fire evacuation routes.”

Like Prescott, Florence Roche will hold a practice bus ride for the school’s kindergartners before all of the school’s 570 kindergarten through fourth-graders come in for the first official day of school on Aug. 31.

“The wonderful thing about education is that every year there’s a new beginning,” said Zimmaro. “The faculty and administration come back re-energized and rearing to go!”

Meanwhile, still caught without proper names, the newly-reconfigured north and south middle schools are also ready for the new year.

“We’re ready to roll,” said Principal Beth Raucci. “We’ve hired five wonderful new teachers and are very excited about them. Also, we have a nice orientation day planned for the fifth-grade students and their parents on Aug. 30. Our goal is to introduce them to the school and hold an ice cream social for the first day.”

The next day, Aug. 31, will be the middle school’s first official day of classes with a total of 975 expected to attend.

Although Raucci said her buildings were in top shape with no renovations or new equipment to report, the one outstanding question has been what the two buildings will be called. Since the old high school was renovated into a second middle school, the community was asked what it wanted to call the two buildings.

Unfortunately, a false start by district officials has delayed the choice. For about two years the buildings have simply been referred to as the north and south middle schools.

But whatever they are called, it will make no difference to the mission of the dedicated teachers working to prepare the district’s young people for a future where education will be more important than ever.

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