By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — Thousands of pairs of new sneakers squeaked down the halls in Niskayuna schools on Sept. 6, as the 2017-18 academic year kicked off.
The elementary schools opened their doors to first- through fifth-graders. Incoming kindergarteners started orientation sessions, which continued the next day.
Students also filed into the two middle schools and took their seats.
At Niskayuna High School, only the incoming freshmen, transfer and exchange students were on campus on Sept. 6. That’s because, a few years ago, the district instituted an orientation day for new-to-the building students to attend and become acclimated.
Teachers and upperclassmen guided small groups of freshmen around, showing them building highlights and must-know offices, like the nurse’s office (you must have a pass to go in), the new cafeteria, the crossroads and the library.
“That’s the library,” said one of the student-guides. “Don’t eat in there. You can maybe drink water but nothing else. Don’t talk loud.”
Some of the students reported feeling welcomed and also nervous. Most were trying not to get lost.
“It’s a lot,” Maighread Wood said. “I wasn’t prepared. I’m just going to get lost a lot.”
Fellow freshman Melinda Wetzel was slightly more optimistic.
“Today has been good. It’s good getting the tour,” she said.
Niskayuna High School offers the daylong orientation to help students feel more comfortable.
“The students have enough angst and anxiety,” said Vince Bianchi, head of student activities and scholarships at the high school. “This is more relaxed.”
Also relaxed and angst-free were the teachers, staff and administrators milling in the halls. Principal John Rickert greeted students, and main office secretary Melissa Conte offered assistance to students and staff alike.
“I’m always optimistic every year. We have an awesome staff that makes things go smoothly,” Conte said. “Seeing the students is the best part of my day.”
Once the students finished the tours, found their lockers and tested the combination locks, they spent the morning following a shortened version of “A-day” class schedules, followed by an afternoon learning their “B-day” schedules.
On Sept. 7, ninth- through 12th-graders arrived for the first regular day of classes.
“This year is going to go great,” said library aide Julie Lohr. “I love working in the schools because every year is a fresh start.”