Educators in the Roosevelt school district will continue a high school program this year that prepares students for college and are trying a team approach at the middle school -- one they hope will help remove it from the state's list of "struggling" schools.
The district was the first on Long Island to call teachers back to the classroom for the 2015-16 school year. Teachers and staff returned Friday, and classes start Tuesday, when students in 32 of Long Island's 124 districts begin the school year.
"Each year we have seen forward movement, and we know we have the traction to continue that movement," Roosevelt Superintendent Deborah Wortham said.
The district's leaders have petitioned the state Education Department to repeal the middle school's designation as "struggling," which the agency handed down last month. No decision has been made, state officials said Friday.
Roosevelt Middle School, with an expected enrollment of 420 students, is one of five schools on Long Island and 144 statewide that the Education Department placed under receivership in July.
If demonstrable improvements in test scores and other criteria aren't made in the next two years at Roosevelt Middle School, it could be turned over to an outside manager. The receivership law, adopted in April, is the state's first major attempt to intervene in local school management since the state took over the entire Roosevelt district in 2002. State control there ended in 2013.
This school year, district officials have divided the middle school's student population into four learning communities, with roughly 100 students per team. The seventh and eighth grades each have two teams.
The teams will include leadership and guidance from an assistant principal, core area teachers, counselors, security officers and support staff.
Middle school Principal Nateasha McVea called the approach "interdisciplinary teaming." By putting this in place, McVea said, "we are ensuring that collaboration around the use of schoolwide data addresses the academic and social emotional needs of all students, shared on each team."
The district was moving in this direction for the middle school, and would have implemented the plan even without the state's "struggling" designation, Wortham said.
Roosevelt High School was expected to be placed under receivership, but the district succeeded in having it removed through an appeal that noted improving graduation rates, the superintendent said.
As part of its appeal, the district touted its partnership in a national program called Smart Scholars that helps students obtain free college credit and tutoring while still attending high school. Roosevelt's students have partnered with SUNY Old Westbury.
While Roosevelt and 31 other districts on the Island begin holding classes Tuesday, there are four additional starting dates for public school students across Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Forty-seven districts start classes on Wednesday and 13 districts on Thursday. After Labor Day, 27 districts start classes on Sept. 8 and five on Sept. 9.
The first continuous five days of classes will not occur until the week of Sept. 28, because schedulers had to take into account Labor Day and the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.