Sharpen your pencils, pack your lunch and, if you’re a Trumbull High student, charge your smartphone. Trumbull Public Schools are back in session Tuesday, Aug. 27.

This will be the first time in 14 years that students and staff will have a new superintendent. Gary Cialfi, who served as assistant superintendent before getting promoted to replace retiring Superintendent Ralph Iassogna, said he looks forward to the new school year, which will focus on student engagement, a continuing shift to common core standards and an emphasis on security.

New teachers started this Wednesday for orientation and all Trumbull teachers returned for professional development Thursday, Aug. 22.

So far, enrollment at the town’s six elementary schools, from preschool to grade 5, is 3,119, which is just 25 more than projected. Enrollment at Trumbull’s Middlebrook and Hillcrest Middle Schools is just 12 over projection at 1,571. Trumbull High enrollment is 2,164, about 30 less than projected. Cialfi said the high school number is lower, in, part, because some high school students chose to attend the new Fairchild Wheeler magnet school in Bridgeport.

“We’ve talked a great deal about preparing for this coming year and engagement is a key word,” Cialfi said. “You can’t dismiss digital learning and making sure we have the technology to engage students. This is our first year of wireless in place and ‘BYOD’ for high school students.”

The “Bring Your Own Device” policy has set guidelines to allow teachers to integrate smartphone and personal device use in the classroom, if it can benefit learning.

“We’re making sure it’s being done as each teacher is ready — some are ready right now and some need a bit of training,” Cialfi said.  “It’s not just something glitzy — it does improve the way a student learns.”

Cialfi said students can use the devices working in groups or begin research on a project. The district will also adapt the personal device policy for middle schools, later in the year.

“That will be a slower process,” Cialfi said. “Those are younger students and they are going to need more structured guidance.”

This is the second year of Trumbull’s full-day kindergarten program. Cialfi said that last year’s students are better prepared for first grade and parents and staff know what to expect this year.

There will be a continued shift to common core standards in mathematics and language arts, across grade level. That state-wide implementation of common core standards is set to be complete by 2014.

“We’ve got a jump on it and it’s basically being infused in all our curriculum guides,” Cialfi said.

Security and facilities

Parents and students may notice some security upgrades, paid for with a $780,000 security bond, approved by the town boards in April. The security improvements were researched and recommended following the Sandy Hook School shooting last December.

“We have a partnership with police that always existed but is now strengthened,” Cialfi said. “There are more outdoor cameras and mechanisms in place when visitors come to the door, so there are no slip-ups with people getting into the building without it getting monitored.”

The district is also aiming to improve communication and the new Trumbull Public Schools website will help. Trumbullps.org was redesigned this summer to be user-friendly and easier for parents, students and staff to find information.

While the nearly seven-year renovation of Trumbull High School will not be entirely complete by the first day of school, things are in much better shape than in the past, Cialfi said. The school is clean and a few minor things will need to be touched up, he said. Al Barbarotta, the town’s representative on the project, has said that remaining work will be done after school hours.

Structural concerns about some of the walls at Madison Middle School will be resolved, Cialfi said.

“We knew even a month ago we would be in perfect shape and there would be no concerns for safety by opening day,” Cialfi said.

First Selectman Timothy Herbst signed an emergency $200,000 bid waiver in July for repair work on the walls, due to structural concerns caused by a defect in the original 1960s design.

“Middlebrook will open as usual and the only difference is there could be some brick work up, which is not structural but only for cosmetic appearance,” he said.

Bus routes

Bus routes for Trumbull Public Schools and private schools can be viewed at Trumbullps.org.

Trumbull’s private schools, Christian Heritage and St. Joseph High, are on a different opening schedule. St. Joseph freshmen start Aug. 27 while the rest of the student body goes back Thursday, Aug. 29. See Sjcadets.org for more information. Christian Heritage students return Wednesday, Aug. 28, for a half day and you can learn more at kingsmen.org.