LAURRIE: A new school year, new programs, new goals

Mark Laurrie

Summertime was preparation time for the Niagara Falls City School District. All of our new ideas and programs are put into action when the first school bell of the new year rings. In the face of many challenges, we are providing the youths of Niagara Falls a top-notch education that rivals any school district in New York state.

For optimal learning, our schools must be in optimal condition — we cannot let them become dilapidated because we didn’t stick to our responsibility to care for them. Schools with shiny new floors, fresh coats of paint, newly paved parking lots, updated mechanics and new roofs demonstrate to our students that the community cares and wants them to have well-kept buildings for learning.

Capital improvements in the summer of 2019 were completed on time with no accidents or time lost. The projects provided 160 local jobs.

District YouTube video updates have been added and have been a huge hit. These short updates, in addition to our newsletter, website, Facebook page and Twitter account have been put in place to keep the public continuously in the loop when it comes to their district.

This year we will be introducing exciting programs involving arts and athletics. We are offering sponsorships of the following: our main Performing Arts Center (PAC) lobby marquee sign; PAC box office; PAC orchestra pit; the athletic field house; press box; the baseball, softball, soccer, and practice fields and much more. Stay tuned for a big announcement Homecoming weekend (Oct. 4 and 5) to learn more.

We are launching a Theatre Hall of Fame this year. Our most outstanding performing artists will be celebrated with a Wall of Fame plaque outside the Performing Arts Center. The Wall of Fame will also be offered for sponsorship.

Mental health education continues to be a priority in the NFCSD. Our children must have healthy minds in order to succeed in school and later in life. Because of the district’s responsible budgeting, we have added five new social workers at no additional cost to taxpayers. The social workers will focus on factors that are holding students back, addressing these problems, and working with children and parents to mitigate these issues.

The NFCSD is partnering with Gateway-Longview to open a mental health clinic in every elementary school. This partnership makes great use of a community-based organization that is loaning its skills at no cost to the district. The clinics will act as satellite offices and will provide mental health counseling directly in schools. This removes barriers such as transportation that make getting to appointments outside of school difficult for our students.

NFCSD has turned to the future when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Virtual reality headsets use mind travel to take our students places they may never see in person. Through virtual reality, our students explore everything from the Egyptian pyramids to outer space. The use of virtual reality goggles keeps students engaged and interested in the learning experience.

Drone technology has touched down at NFCSD Prep Schools. Woz U Drones are new this year as part of the eighth grade curriculum. Originated by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Woz U Drones content covers coding, engineering design and drone piloting. The goal is to provide pupils with skills that will make them employable as they move from prep school student to high school graduate.

Starting this school year, eighth-graders will take algebra and living environment — courses previously offered in ninth grade. The pupils will take Regents exams in both disciplines and will start high school with two Regents credits earned toward graduation.

In the new school year we will be preparing for Sister Schools. This exciting program will bring Harry F. Abate and Niagara Street Elementary Schools together to cater to age-appropriate interests of the child. Under the plan, one school will host pre-K through grade two and its sister school will welcome grades three through six.

Here’s a list of what else is new this school year:

• Our extraordinarily successful Reading Recovery Program at Kalfas will be expanding to include Niagara Street Elementary School.

• All music students will be receiving brand new instruments.

ª The popular F-Bites culinary program is expanding and will be facilitating the opening of a Starbucks (yes, a real Starbucks!) at Niagara Falls High School. Students will receive a barista certificate upon completion of a training program.

I hope you will join us in celebrating the new school year and supporting our events. We look forward to yet another exciting year in Niagara Falls.


Mark Laurrie is the superintendent of the Niagara Falls School District.

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