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After summer vacation, students bring Masuk’s building to life

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Steve Swensen, who was hired to lead Masuk High School during the COVID-19 pandemic, waited for buses to arrive Wednesday morning. It was the start of a new school year and his fourth as principal. The first freshmen students he encountered now make up this year’s senior class.

“It’s the first class I’m seeing all the way through,” he said. “The first class without multiple principals.”

Swensen waited outside the building’s main entrance with Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza, Assistant Superintendent Sheila Casinelli and Mike Lawlor, manager of All-Star Transportation’s Monroe bus terminal.

“It’s my 25th first day and it’s like my first, first day,” Swensen said. “It’s exciting getting the kids back in the building. It kind of brings the school to life.”

Among the biggest concerns on the first day of school, is helping freshmen to navigate the hallways and the cafeteria, and to find their classes, according to Kobza and Swensen.

“It’s guiding them though the day and hoping everyone has a good day,” said Swensen, who also had two of his own children on his mind, a kindergartener and a first grader starting their year at Stepney Elementary School.

“I’m really excited once again,” Kobza said of the opening of Monroe public schools’ 2023-2024 academic year. “It’s a new beginning every year. The schools are in great shape. A lot of work was done over the summer.”

Educators greet students coming off a bus at Masuk High School Wednesday morning.

Kobza said all of the floors were cleaned throughout the district’s five schools, Masuk, Jockey Hollow Middle, and Monroe, Stepney and Fawn Hollow elementary schools.

At Masuk, the pool has a new filter and the PTO put a patio in the courtyard.

Curbing was done at Stepney, Kobza said, adding its courtyard, which was overgrown, was cleaned up and white rock was put in. There will also be plantings there, he added.

“I think they want to make that a learning space,” he said.

“I’m excited for a new year,” Casinelli said. “I’m happy to have everyone back and, now having the students back, it’s the icing on the cake. That’s why we do it.”

‘It all starts with All-Star’

As buses entered the parking lot and educators greeted students with smiles, waves and fist bumps, Lawlor walked around with a clipboard while keeping track of his drivers’ arrival times.

“It all starts with All-Star,” Kobza said. “They do a great job of getting the kids here for the start of school. Years ago, we always had delays at each school during the first week back.” Of All-Star, he said, “it’s obvious they do dry runs. They’re a very good partner. They’re organized.”

If drivers are late arriving to Masuk in the morning, which is the first bus run of the day, Kobza said it causes a domino effect of late buses at the other schools.

Once the first bus arrived Wednesday, a line of yellow buses soon formed in front of the school.

“They come in quick,” Casinelli said. “It’s a steady flow.”

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