Cloudy skies and rain with a rainbow in the distance greeted thousands of Shenendehowa Central School District students as they began a new academic year on Wednesday. Long lines of parents in cars waited to drop off their children, many of whom were lugging large bags of school supplies, musical instruments and/or sports gear.
Traffic curled around the large, 232-acre campus early in the morning, and was still going strong 10 minutes prior to the start of classes at the high school, as older students attempted to get parking spaces close by.
A number of changes greeted both students and their parents upon their arrival, namely the new roads and traffic patterns designed and installed over the summer to make navigating in, around and out of the campus easier. Walkways and other outdoor areas were also reconfigured to incorporate smoother transitions into and out of school buildings.
Specifically, in June, the roads by the campus' aquatic and transportation centers, along with the High School West parking lot were repaved. New sidewalks were installed in front of HSW as well, along with a new roof over the gymnasium.
At High School East, both an extensive renovation of the kitchen and cafeteria as well as a building-wide asbestos abatement procedure were completed in August.
Students who were entering both high schools were largely aware of the work that was done over the summer, and were looking forward to seeing their new schools.
"When I was driving through campus last month it was kind of hard to get around," said Jon Kellay, who was starting his junior year on Wednesday. "But it'll be a good thing of parking is easier this year."
While Brianna King, entering HSW as a freshman, also knew about the construction, she was more excited about being able to start her high school career with new facilities.
"I saw that they did an amazing job on the library last year, so I'm sure everything will look really good," she said, specifically referencing the total overhaul and modernization of the HWE library last year.
Prior to the start of the school day, district superintendent L. Oliver Robinson took a moment to welcome new students into the district, and to remind recently graduated students that they will always have a place among the Shen Plainsmen.
"Today we welcome the class of 2032 as they start their Shen journey. We embrace the excitement of the class of 2020 as they prepare for life off the Great Plains. Welcome back to all our students and staff to what will be a terrific school year," he said.
Approximately 9,850 students attend Shen. The district pulls from various communities -- Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Ballston Lake, Round Lake, Malta and parts of Waterford, Rexford, Mechanicville and Stillwater.
The district has three middle schools, eight elementary schools and a high school divided into two buildings — High School West, which houses freshmen, and High School East, which houses sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Last year, there was an average of 425 students in each elementary school, with 680 at Arongen Elementary, which has been the district's largest elementary school for a number of years.
There were 782 students at Koda Middle School — the district's largest middle school — last year, according to district enrollment data. There were 3,252 students last year between both high school buildings.