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Old Forge School District Superintendent John Rushefski. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TIMES-TRIBUNE

School’s back in session in the Old Forge School District, where administrators and teachers are hard at work making the 2018-19 a successful one for students.

During a recent interview, Old Forge superintendent John Rushefski listed a number of new initiatives that the district has put in place to enhance student outcomes.

One notable change is an extended day at the high school. Instead of ending at 2:30 p.m., the school day will now conclude at 2:40, thanks to an extra period devoted to “remediation, enrichment and tutoring” for students, Rushefski said. Among other things, the program is intended to help students improve their standardized testing scores.

“So now, the high school is going to have 11 periods in the day, up from 10,” he said. “That 11th period will be focused on remediation, enrichment and tutoring. During this time, we’ll also have career readiness mixed in with that, because that’s something we’re also focusing on. It’s an entirely new program. We’re excited about it.”

In addition, this marks the second year of the district’s implementation of its new textbook series and technology overhaul, Rushefski said.

“We’re using new textbooks for math, science and ELA (English Language Arts) for K-12 – math is in year three, science and ELA are in year two,” he said. “The technology overhaul happened last summer. Our laptop cards, Google Chromebooks, new computer labs, and new media lab will all be fully functioning this year. The media lab is like a Barnes & Noble coffee shop/bookstore area. There, the students can use technology, study, get printouts of assignments, do homework.”

The district is continuing its partnership with Lackawanna College’s Level Up program, which gives high school students the chance to take dual-enrollment college courses.

“So, with that, the opportunity is there for students to get an associate degree. It will require the student to take 60 credits,” Rushefski said. “Obviously, it’ll take an ambitious student to get there, but the opportunity is there now for a special kind of student.”

Also, the district received a $5,000 grant from the Ronald McDonald House Charities which has allowed it to set up a student store in the high school that will be staffed by the district’s special education students.

Like Riverside and other area school districts, the district is taking security as seriously as ever in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting earlier this year.

“We’ve redone our entryway and exit for security purposes. It will funnel all people through the office,” Rushefski said. “Our visitor management system is new. It scans drivers licenses and does background checks. We’re safer this year than we’ve ever been before.”

Meanwhile, the district is continuing its partnership with the Old Forge Police Department to have an officer present on school grounds. And, Rushefski added, the high school PTA raised money to purchase large-screen security monitors.

“That’s going to help us get more eyes on different areas of the school,” he said.

Taken as a whole, these initiatives add up to a safer, more academically rigorous environment for Old Forge students.

“It’s exciting,” Rushefski said. “We’re really looking forward to the next year.”

For more information on Old Forge’s 2018-19 school year, visit the district’s website at: ofsd.cc.