PLAINVILLE — There were many smiles, and a few sniffles, as children lined up behind their new teachers and filed into Wheeler Elementary School for their first day of school.
After music teacher Veronica Brendel’s tradition of starting the year off with a few guitar songs, like “This Land is Your Land,” Principal Andrew Batchelder encouraged the students to be part of the school’s “PACK” and promised they will learn the principles behind it - Participate, Achieve, Cooperate and Know.
The school is in some ways is as new and liminal as some of its youngest students. The ongoing renovate-as-new project is entering its final phases and students will be able to enjoy the refinished library, cafeteria and gymnasium and an entirely transformed courtyard, intended as an outdoor learning space.
Parents dropping off paperwork were ushered through a vestibule system leading directly into the bustling main office, moved to the western side of the school facing the parking lot.
“It’s unbelievable, the change in the last week alone,” said Superintendent Steven LePage, who was working his first day of school as the district’s leader.
In his first year as superintendent, LePage said he will be focusing on building relationships with students, improving learning outcomes and creating new modes of communication with parents. He has a goal of stopping by schools every day and spending as much time in classrooms as possible and is working on creating a combined parent advisory council, which will bring the Board of Education, district leadership and “involved and influential parents” together in two meetings every year to discuss objectives and happenings.
“Our goal is to have students even better prepared … because we have tremendous teachers, tremendous staff,” he said.
He will be assisted by David Levenduski, recently hired as the new assistant superintendent of schools. LePage previosuly held the assistant position until former Superintendent Maureen Brummett left the district to lead Newington Schools.
Levenduski said the opening ceremonies he attended Tuesday morning gave him a chance to meet parents and students, who he said showed plenty of smiles and excitement.
“I see a lot of great pride in the parents and students and staff,” he said.