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SCASD Begins the 2022-2023 School Year


Nobody told them seventh grade would involve chewing paper. 


Park Forest Middle School teacher John Cimino delivered the surprise to his home room on the first day of school Tuesday after handing out slips with locker assignments.


“You have to memorize your locker number and combination, then so that spies don’t find out where your locker is, you need to eat it. Got it?” he said as heads looked up. “OK, don’t really eat it.”


Joking aside, Cimino had a serious objective: making sure everyone began the 2022-2023 school year smoothly. That included explaining the A/B block schedule — a new concept for the seventh-graders — and providing time to review classes online and fill out a cheat sheet for handy reference.


“Take a few minutes to work out your schedule,” Cimino said. “I’d like you to copy it so that you have a real clear idea of where you’re going in the next two days.”


As Chromebooks were consulted, the rest of the State College Area School District also plunged into a fresh year, leaving summer break behind and infusing schools with energy and optimism.


“It’s so, so great to have you back!” Park Forest Middle School Principal Karen Wiser said on the morning announcement broadcast. “We missed you over the summer. This building is empty and quiet, and it’s just no fun without you. So I hope you had a great summer, and we’re excited to spend the year with you.”


Radio Park, Park Forest and Gray's Woods elementary schools brimmed with similar enthusiasm.


“Our returning and new Mini-Lions had a great start to the school year here,” Radio Park Principal Alex Raup said. “It was so fun to see students meeting their new teachers and classmates and settling back into school routines.”


“One of the highlights of my day was walking around to classrooms and greeting students and teachers," Park Forest Principal Jessica Quinter said. "It's heartwarming to see students excited to be in the building with their friends and wonderful to see tables and more opportunities for students to work together. It was also fun for me since it was my second year and I already knew many names and faces!"


“On our first day, I saw hallways filled with joy and excitement,” Gray’s Woods Principal Kristen Dewitt said. “This is the 20th anniversary of Gray's Woods and we are celebrating ‘20 years of PACK Power.’ Students entered the building, chatted with friends, greeted former teachers and anxiously headed to class to meet new ones. I felt a lightness in the air that we haven't felt in the past few years, and many faculty and staff mentioned feeling hopeful that this is going to be our best year yet!”


Some students adjusted to new grades with a goal in mind for the year.


“I’m trying to get better at math,” Park Forest eighth-grader Taif Alasmari said.


“I’d like to keep up my school grades and stay motivated with sports,” classmate Joaquin Sanchez said.


At Mount Nittany Middle School, sixth-grader David Zhang said he aspired to read more chapter books while seventh-grader Cooper Knepp aimed for “learning and experiencing new things.” 


Enthusiastically starting fifth grade were Park Forest Elementary’s Juan Lorber, Mount Nittany Elementary’s Conrad Ferro and Kennedy Ritter, and Gray’s Woods Elementary’s Lucas Wagner and Addy LeRoy.  


“I hope to read at least 100 books this year,” Lorber said.


“Some goals I’m looking forward to completing are getting better with teachers, like being more focused, and improving my handwriting,” Ferro said.


“I’m excited to do science with the younger kids because I can help somebody who doesn’t know as much,” Ritter said.


Now that they’re at the top of the heap, Wagner and LeRoy are thrilled to be bus buddies, mentors paired with kindergarteners to assist during arrivals and dismissals.


“I had a really cool bus buddy; her name was Simone,” LeRoy said. “There were a lot of other bus buddies who were super friendly, and I definitely wanted to be like them, to welcome the new kindergartners to our school.”


“My bus buddy’s name was Zeke, and he was really caring,” Wagner said. “It really meant a lot. It inspired me to become a leader like him, so I feel that it’s really important, seeing how he helped me.”


Easterly Parkway Elementary Principal Susan Lunsford enjoyed seeing her school community come together again to embark on the mutual adventure of a school year.


“The highlights of my ‘first’ day as a principal began before I even opened the door — when I saw all of the smiling faces of students waiting for the doors of the school to open,” she said. “I love hearing the stories they share of things that happened over the summer. And, I love seeing the interactions between students and their new teachers. There's something magical about watching students and teachers getting to know each other as they begin to build a community of learners from the very first day.”


By Chris Rosenblum

Video by Nabil K. Mark