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School Notebook: Long Island students welcome furry friends

Fifth-graders at James H. Vernon School in East

Fifth-graders at James H. Vernon School in East Norwich recently read in the school's library with a therapy dog named Rudy. Credit: Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District

Furry four-legged friends have been aiding in education efforts across Long Island.

Many schools have brought lessons to children and teens about the important roles that dogs can play in such fields as therapy and law enforcement — and, in some cases, inviting the canines into the classrooms.

The Sachem School District recently introduced two tail-waggers, Bailey and Oakley, who are service dogs at the district's East and North high schools. The goldendoodles are available through the guidance office to help students with anxiety and stress management.

"The dogs lift spirits, offer friendship and can turn the mood of a student, even an entire class, around on a dime," said Sachem Superintendent Christopher Pellettieri.

In Wantagh, the elementary school's fifth-graders were visited by representatives of the Guide Dog Foundation along with a guide dog named Harper and a guide dog-in-training named Lola. The children also collected items ranging from bones to cleaning products for the foundation.

In Shoreham, second-graders at Miller Avenue School met a German shepherd accompanied by members of the Suffolk County Police Department. The officers also led the dog in demonstrating its skills in evidence recovery and criminal apprehension.

In East Norwich, fifth-graders at James H. Vernon School who won the school's summer reading contest read aloud to a therapy dog named Rudy.

"We are so grateful for his ability to make everyone around him smile and feel special," said the school's principal Valerie Vacchio said.

EAST SETAUKET

Crafty creations

Christopher Guidice, a fifth-grader at Minnesauke Elementary School, has launched MMA Millings, a craft business he created six months ago with his older brothers Matthew and Michael. The Setauket-based company specializes in handmade and custom-designed projects.

One of his recent projects involved making two wood-worked hall passes for peers in Christine Beck's class. They were created using a CNC machine and CAD software.

"I've always loved to tinker with things and watching my brothers work," Christopher said. "The best part is to see the reaction when our customers receive their completed projects."

OCEANSIDE

Machine-naming contest

Two student groups in the Oceanside School District won a contest to name two microtunnel boring machines that are being deployed as part of the Bay Park Conveyance Project. The contest invited children to submit essays or videos with proposed names inspired by historical figures, geography or the environment.

The winners were "Marsh-Mellow," submitted by sixth-graders in Sheila Gunther's class at School 8, and "P.O.S.E.I.D.O.N. (Project of Science to Expel an Incredibly Damaging Overabundance of Nitrogen)," submitted by sixth-graders in Kristin Stea's class at School 5.

The project, which is a partnership between Nassau County and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, will convey treated water from the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility in East Rockaway to the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh.

SMITHTOWN

Essay contest winner

Smithtown High School West senior Josie Muratore has won Smithtown Historical Society's Mildred Smith Historical Essay Contest, which was open to juniors in schools throughout the Town of Smithtown.

Muratore's five-page essay detailed the history of Smithtown Elementary School, which she previously attended. She received a $1,000 scholarship.

"Each room had a wall entirely of glass — a wall of windows, in other words, where the children could observe the environment, the weather and nature as it changed throughout the school year," Muratore wrote of the school. "In today's time it might not seem as a big deal, but in 1950, it was a luxury to have students be able to look and feel outside of their classroom."

VALLEY STREAM

Twilight Program

Valley Stream Central High School District has launched a new program for students who have fallen behind on schoolwork because of factors ranging from jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also open to those who perform better in more personalized environments, district officials said.

The Twilight Program is held Monday through Thursday from 3:45 to 8:15 p.m.

"This individualized program supports these students in a way that ensures they are given the best opportunity to achieve to the highest potential in their high school journey," Superintendent Wayne Loper said.

COUNTYWIDE

Veterans Day

Many Long Island schools celebrated those who have served our country last month in honor of Veterans Day.

In Garden City, Homestead School students learned proper flag-folding techniques using the school's original American flag, which dates from 1959.

In Greenlawn, Oldfield Middle School students wrote appreciative letters to past service members as part of a "Salute to Veterans" coordinated by Melville-based Cona Elder Law. Student government members also created a video thanking vets for their service.

In Hampton Bays, the elementary school held a car parade in which students and staff cheered veterans in attendance while patriotic music played in the background.

In Massapequa, East Lake Elementary School students wrote thank-you cards that were sent to places including the American Legion and Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook. Students and staff also submitted more than 100 pictures of relatives who have served for a Wall of Honor.

In Merrick, children at Norman J. Levy Lakeside Elementary School interacted virtually with Matthew DeGregorio, who is the grandfather of a second-grader and a former sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.

In Westhampton Beach, the elementary school's first-graders glued photos of family and friends who have served to paper stars displayed in the school's Hall of Heroes. They also made signs depicting the five branches of the military.

— MICHAEL R. EBERT

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