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AA Kingston holds its first fifth grade orientation

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POTSDAM - For the first time, students entering the fifth grade at AA Kingston were treated to an orientation program to help ease their transition from Lawrence Avenue Elementary to the middle school

Lawrence Avenue School Principal Larry B. Jenne said in the past fourth-grade students spent a day toward the end of the previous school year at the middle school.

“Usually at the end of the year, fourth-graders would come up here for kind of a transition day, but it never really worked,” Mr. Jenne said.

Enter new AAK Principal Mark Bennett, who comes to Potsdam after serving as principal at Case Middle School in Watertown.

“We did something similar in Watertown,” he said, adding that rather than an orientation solely for transitioning from elementary to middle school their program was also geared for new students.

“In a military community an orientation program is very important, and it’s similar in a college town,” he said.

Mr. Bennett also said that while one would assume the program is designed for the students he said much of the orientation is geared toward easing parental stress.

“A lot of this is for the parents rather than the students,” he said. “Meeting us and knowing we are all here for them alleviates a lot of the anxiety for them, which in turn alleviates a lot of the anxiety for the kids.”

The program included a brief introduction from Mr. Jenne, as well as a presentation by Mr. Bennett.

“I think this year is going to be a much better transition for you guys, which is good for me as an elementary principal, so I’m not worried about you all up here freaking out on the first day,” Mr. Jenne said.

Mr. Bennett noted the goal of the orientation was to give everyone a chance to see each other, get some information and have their questions answered. “I want you to get those answers before the first day of school,” he said.

Mr. Bennett then offered several pieces of advice for the incoming fifth graders.

“Once you get to middle school, it gets harder for parents and kids because you’ll be dealing with more than one teacher,” he said, adding middle school also includes study halls.

“You should be able to finish your homework if you use your time wisely,” he said.

He also encouraged the students to branch out a little bit. “Get involved. There’s a lot to do at AAK,” he said. “Make new friends, branch out. In fourth grade, you’re in a class with about 20 kids, but in fifth grade, you’ll be dealing with about 100 kids.”

Finally, he encouraged the students keep a positive outlook and always try their best. “Work hard and be enthusiastic. Enjoy what you’re doing,” he said.

As for the parents, Mr. Bennett encouraged them to sign up for School Tool, a program operated through the district’s website that will allow them to monitor their son’s or daughter’s grades.

“Five weeks in between progress reports is too long,” he said. “With School Tool you can see the teacher’s grade book. If a teacher grades a test at night, you might know your student’s grade before he or she does.”

Guidance counselor Kristen Zender noted one of the keys to student success is school is the involvement of their parents.

“The foundation to a great education is what you do at home,” she said. “When there is more parental involvement in education, children are more successful.”

Following the presentation, parents and their students were broken into small groups for a tour of the building led by a student volunteer.

Sadie Brusso and Brittany Martin were among the sixth graders helping out.

“A lot of the people going into fifth grade are very good friends of mine, so I figured I would help,” Brittany said.

Sadie looked back at her own transition, and both girls said an orientation program would have been a big help to them.

“The transition from fourth to fifth grade is really hard and they could use some help,” Sadie said.

Ben White is one of the incoming fifth graders, and he said he’s not looking forward to the end of summer vacation.

“I’ll have to do homework,” he said, adding he’s worried about going to different classes.

“In elementary school all of the classes were in the same room,” he said.

Shannon Todd is an incoming fifth grader, who won’t only be new to the middle school but is also new to Potsdam.

“I just moved here from Norwood,” she said, adding she has met a few students so far.

When asked if she was looking forward to the first day of school, she said she was. “I’m excited, but nervous,”she added.

One thing she did say she was looking forward to was having a locker of her own, something her friends from Norwood-Norfolk won’t get for two more years.

“At my old school we wouldn’t have switched classes and got a locker with a combination on it until seventh grade.”

Shannon’s mom, Alisha Todd said she was thankful for Wednesday’s event.

“I think this is great,” she said. “It helps to see what the expectations of the school are, the layout of the building and it allows us to meet the new principal.”

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