October 21, 2021

Randall Middle School welcomes students for first day of classes

Travis Dunn/Staff Reporter

Taylor Thomas, 10, talks about her first day of fifth grade at Randall Middle School Thursday afternoon. She used to attend Barry Elementary.

It was a whole new world Thursday for most of the nearly 360 students heading to Randall Middle School.

At Randall, all but about 80 fifth and sixth-graders went to different schools last year and would have continued at those schools, if not for the major reorganization of the Cortland Enlarged School District this school year.

Taylor Thomas, 10, was enjoying her first day of fifth grade, but she was definitely homesick for her old school, Barry Elementary.

“So far it’s good here, but I still miss Barry,” she said.

“It’s a fresh start for everybody,” said Principal Jorden Ashley.

Randall is now just for fifth- and sixth-graders. The district this year closed two elementary schools, and redistributed its students to Barry Primary School — kindergarten to second grade — Smith Intermediate School — third and fourth grade — and Randall. Thursday was the first day of school for all schools in the district.

For Taylor, the best part Thursday was getting to see her friends from Barry. But she also
got to meet new friends, like the kid who can talk like a duck and turn his eyelids inside out.

As far as classes went, Taylor was looking forward to math and science, which she still had yet to get to.

“I really like science, because you get to do hands-on stuff,” she said. Her homeroom teacher, Amy Worlock, told Taylor they’d “be doing a lot of that this year,” which she was excited about.

Sixth-grader Connor Browngardt, 11, was impressed by the layout of the new school. Connor, who also went to Barry last year, liked that Randall has its gym right in the middle of the school. He also enjoyed a getting-to-know you game that his class played in Deanna Gostinski’s class.

But he was sad that he was no longer at Barry, which he was hoping he’d graduate from.

Carly Hewitt, school counselor, faced a school full of students for her first job out of her master’s program at SUNY Oswego. Her position is also a new one; while the district has a counselor at the high school and has had social worker and psychologist for the elementary, this is the first school year that the lower-grade schools have had a counselor, who will work at all three schools.

“It’s been great,” Hewitt said. “I’ve seen kids already today, and I’ve been able to attend a few assemblies.” She also spent a good part of the summer working with teachers, administrators and SUNY Cortland professors on a new curriculum to teach students “life lessons” — lessons on social and emotional regulation, as well as academic and career planning.

Just before the end of school, crossing guard Mary Ann Piedigrossi was putting on her bright yellow reflective vest and getting ready for the kids. That morning, everything worked out fine, she said.

“The kids were a little nervous, but it went very well,” she said, “The teachers were out here to help.”

A lot of the faces were new this year, but she recognized a lot from last year.

“They were happy to see me, and I was happy to see them,” she said.

Outside, Rachael Wilson sat in her car, waiting for her 10-year- old son Alexander to come out.

Alexander went to the now-closed Parker school, but most of his friends from there also go to Randall this year, and he was happy about that.

“He was a little nervous,” she said. “It’s a big change for them.”