"It is going to be great," said Melissa Connolly, vice president for university relations. "We have been trying to create more programs to reach out to the middle schools and high schools."
The competition with fourth- to eighth-graders begins at 9:30 a.m. and will be at Hofstra's John Cranford Adams Playhouse, south campus. News 12 Long Island anchor Stacey Bell will serve as emcee and Carole Clark Papper, professor of writing studies and composition, will serve as head judge and moderator.
More than five times as many students will compete this year, with each getting a chance to orally spell such words as "plainchant" and "factotum." The winner will be among the 277 spellers who will compete for the title of 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion in National Harbor, Md. in May.
Among the competitors is last year's LI winner, Naman Shakrani, a seventh-grader from W.T. Clarke Middle School in the East Meadow school district, who spelled "noctograph" to beat more than 20 students when the bee was held at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School.
He didn't advance at last year's national bee. However, in January, he again took his school's title by correctly spelling the word "convalesce," said Stacy Breslin, principal.
"All of us here at Clarke are very proud of Naman's efforts and accomplishments," she said. "The entire community wishes him the best of luck."
Naman, 11, said he has been reading the dictionary to prepare and "It's exciting. I hope I win again."
The bee had been sponsored for about the last decade by the Long Island Jewish World. Publisher Jerome Lippman said Thursday that "economically, we just were unable to continue it. We are happy that Hofstra University has assumed this responsibility. We stand firm in support of spelling and the spelling bee on Long Island."
Scripps asked Hofstra to become involved in the bee, Connolly said, and local schools signed up through Scripps. A Scripps official said several universities around the nation sponsor local bees.
Hofstra will sponsor the trip to the national bee for Sunday's winner and a parent or guardian.