LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The halls of Lackawanna Schools were filled with a bundle of different emotions, as students zipped up their backpacks and headed back to school the day before Labor Day weekend.

“It gives them the opportunity to have this one day to sort of come in and see what they’re going to be experiencing this year, take a little bit of a three day break and then really hit the ground running.” said Jennifer English, Principal of Extended Learning & Community Engagement of Lackawanna City School District.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day, since we ended the year,” said Moustafa Khalil, Principal, Lackawanna Middle School. “We’re looking at taking care of the whole child this year, so we’re not just looking at academics, we’re looking at what their social and emotional status is.”

It’s Khalil’s, along with English’s, and the new principal at the Lackawanna High School, Jennifer Springer’s first, “First Day of School” with the students. Along with three new administrators come new ideas and initiatives taken by the district to help lead to students’ success.

“We’re still dealing with what has happened academically, socially and emotionally from COVID, so the programs offer an extended opportunity to students and families to get a little extra help after school, we’ll have paper tutoring that we’ll be bringing in that they can also work with but it also gives students the opportunity to become more involved with their school community,” English said.

English told News 4 some things that are new are their after school, extended day program, where in partnership with YWUCA of WNY, they’re providing academic enriching activities with STEM, art and music. They’re also added “Saturday Academys” for the first time in the school, where every month at the high school, and every other month in the Martin Road and Truman Elementary schools, they will have three hour long programs to help build parent, student and school engagement.

Just an opportunity for the families to become more involved and the schools to get more engagement from the families.” said English.

They’ve also added a 24 Homework Helpline for students to use, and they also have two cultural resource officers help with bilingual families.

“We’re kind of looking at things within the school day, but also beyond the school day and kind of making it feel almost in some ways, like a community center because we really are a center point for the City of Lackawanna.” said Jennifer Spring, Principal of Lackawanna High School.

Another change of action, that Moustafa Khalil, the Middle school principal told us about, is that they are using are social workers to respond to misbehavior rather than administrators or security.

“We’re done with suspending kids, we need to take care of them, and figure out what their problem is.” said Khalil. Counseling is also available every day as a resource for students to use.

Down the street from the middle school and high school, the Martin Road Elementary school, is also help build a connection between students, staff and the entire community–one book at a time.

“We’re doing something called ‘One School One Book.’ The whole school is reading one book.” said Julie Andresozzi, Principal of Martin Road Elementary, “Parents will be reading with their children, they can if their siblings they’re reading the same book, their siblings–they’re reading the same book, and then in school we’re also doing extension activities so we’re excited for this new family community engagement activity.”

For more information on the new activities and resources being added this year, visit the District’s website here.

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Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.