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Welcome Back, Jack! 

Students get a helping hand from Rep. Steve Israel as they cut the ribbon to start their first day at the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School in Huntington Station.
Long-Islander photo/Danny Schrafel

Closed to classes for three years, school opens to 150 student

One by one, students trickled off the school buses outside the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School on Wednesday, loaded up with books, backpacks and lunches for the first day of classes since the Huntington Station school was closed to kids three years ago.

The students coming off the bus are among the first 150 students to study in the Huntington School District’s new science, technology engineering and mathematics-focused program.

The school, located on Lowndes Avenue, was closed in 2010 amidst rising concerns of violent crime in the surrounding community. But rather than frame the first day as a reopening of Jack Abrams School, Congressman Steve Israel, of Huntington, said it instead marks the birth of new opportunities for Huntington students.

“The most important lesson we learned today at this school is that we never give up on our schools. We never give up on our communities, and we never give up on our children,” Israel said, surrounded by students. “That’s why we’re here today… We turn challenges into opportunity.”

In addition to Israel, students were welcomed by Superintendent Jim Polansky, their new STEM coach, Rae Montesano, and hundreds of well wishers.

“From the get-go, this has been an exciting prospect for all of us,” said Polansky, who added that at least two sixth-grade sections will be added for the 2014-2015 school year.

For Margaret Otto, whose son Nathaniel is a fifth-grader at Jack Abrams, it’s a case of education coming full circle. She studied at the same building, then the Huntington Elementary School.

“We love the school itself. We wanted to see it reopened, and we loved the idea of putting an emphasis on science and technology,” she said.

Polansky said the school’s educational methodology is focused on inquiry-based learning with an emphasis on problem solving. Students were selected through a lottery.

“With all the recent chatter about assessments and assessment results, we in this district, we in this school, are going to commit to authentic learning experiences,” Polansky said.

For example, the students and their teachers spent part of the first day planting six maple tree seedlings along the perimeter of the property. Not only did the trees symbolically represent a new beginning at Jack Abrams and the future growth of its students, it also provided an opportunity for the young pupils to put math and science skills into practical use.

“The students will be digging, measuring, making observations and making predictions… so they can compare it at the end of the year,” Montesano explained.

The school is a perfect fit for third-grader Quinn Fox, her mother, Debbie said.

“Math and science are her favorite subjects,” she explained. “It’s such a great opportunity, such a cool, different approach to teaching subjects she likes. It’s a slam-dunk any way you think about it.”

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