Students at RCSD and Hilton return; See our coverage

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s the return of school for students in the Rochester City School District. Students are also returning in Hilton, Brighton, Brockport, East Irondequoit, and other local districts. You can see a full list here.

News10NBC TODAY is live from the Nathaniel Hawthorne School and Montessori Academy in Rochester and Northwood Elementary School in Hilton as the schools prepare to welcome students.

RCSD Chief of Schools LaJuan White says the return of students is months in the planning. She is looking forward to greeting new and returning students and seeing them make friends.

“I’ve been in this field now for almost 30 years and there’s nothing like the first day of school,” White said.

Kimberly Harris-Pappin, the principal at Montessori Academy, said “be” is the theme for the new school year: be kind, be focused, be considerate. She is excited to create a welcoming environment for students and making parents part of the school’s community.

Melissa Perkowski, the principal at Northwood Elementary School in Hilton, said she’s looking forward to building relationships with students and their families. She said teachers often come in during the summer to prepare classroom lessons and she plans to visit classrooms today.

Perkowski said the first day of school can be emotional for families.

“It’s important for us to recognize that parents are saying goodbye to their youngest and sending them off to school. It’s important to reassure families and kids that it’s a good place to be and that we’re here to support everybody,” she said.

The Hilton Central School District faced challenges recently including a series of bomb threats last March and the conviction of a principal for sexual abuse.

Perkowski said the Hilton school district is a strong community and is working to heal and support students.

“Through perseverance, through resiliency, and through many acts to heal, we’re working to help support all of our students and support our staff and families as well. It takes a lot. We’ve worked hard to move forward and make sure we’re always considering the needs of our students first,” she said.

This school year, RCSD will welcome students whose families are seeking asylum. The most recent round of asylum seekers staying at the Holiday Inn downtown includes a family from Haiti, a family from Jamaica, seven families from Venezuela, and three families from Ecuador.

Ruth Turner, the deputy superintendent for administration and support at RCSD, said staff is ready to greet students across language backgrounds and accommodate their needs. They’re also providing school supplies to any students in need. The district is working with 10 local agencies to support students from asylum-seeking families.

“They’ve been through a lot and, whether it’s the school community or the greater Rochester community, to feel like your welcomed and cared for is super important,” she said.

Marisol Ramos-Lopez, chief of communications at RCSD, said the capacity of buses will increase this year to ensure that students have reliable transportation. On some routes, the buses will be 60% filled, instead of the typical 45%.

RCSD has invested $7 million in infrastructure upgrades to improve safety, including concrete barriers and fencing. This school year, there will also be an RPD presence at some schools during arrival and dismissal. In addition, RCSD is partnering with the anti-violence outreach group Pathways to Peace for programs at schools.