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Students, Staff Prepare for West Orange Schools Sept. 14 Opening

WEST ORANGE. NJ – As the Sept. 14 countdown to the opening of schools in West Orange continues, students and staff are preparing for a unique start to the semester via Zoom and in-person orientations.


Middle school students at Edison, Roosevelt, and Liberty have already or soon will be holding in-person orientations at their schools. West Orange High School held their freshman orientations last week, all following safety protocols.


The orientations served as a way to begin integrating students new to schools and create connections for them so that when schools moved away from virtual learning and into the hybrid model (two mornings in school, three virtual days) they would have a sense of familiarity with the process.


“We wanted to give the kids a head start,” began Steve Zichella, who orchestrated the Freshman Orientation events.


525 students are registered to begin their careers at WOHS. With the help of the Mountaineer Mentors, Zichella and his team split the orientations into groups headed up by a mentor. Mountaineer Mentors are high-achievers that will work with the students in their groups, following up via video conferencing, and emails.


“Students and mentors held icebreakers, discussed policies and protocols, reviewed school culture, and were able to share their fears and concerns,” continued Zichella.


Students toured the campus with their mentors, including the interior of the buildings. Orientations for elementary school and new transfer students are planned.


“The orientations are important,” Zichella concluded. “They help to start relationships, build a bridge, and help students attain success.”


Superintendent Dr. Scott Cascone and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction welcomed teaching staff via Zoom Conferencing last week.


“We enjoyed a tremendously successful and positive opening to our school year at yesterday’s convocation,” said Dr. Cascone on Sept. 4.


“We have put together a well-organized and thoughtful week of professional development in order to prepare all of you to begin the virtual school year with the highest level of quality and efficacy,” he explained.


de Mendez began,  “We have missed all of our staff and students beyond measure and are ready to get back to our passion: teaching and learning and caring for our students.”


“Our new school year will begin with much needed time together as a school community, unpacking the Road Back, Health and Safety Protocols, Social and Emotional Learning, Instructional Expectations, and the Integration of Technology in order to provide effective and engaging instruction to all of our students in a virtual setting,” she added.


Topics of district webinars for staff the week of Sept. 6 will include Psychosocial Emotional Learning and Counselor, Instructional staff, and Special Services professional learning.


See more photos of the WOHS Freshman Orientation here.


Freshman Orientation

Freshman Orientation at WOHS on Sept. 2.

Cynthia Cumming
Sept. 7, 2020