Tappan Zee High School

For 8th Graders: TZHS Q&A

8th Grade Student & Parent Orientation
Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 7:00PM
Tappan Zee High School
The program will begin in the auditorium at 7:00 with an informative overview of the freshmen curriculum. TZHS students will then provide a tour of the building, and families and eighth-graders will be able to take a closer look at the curriculum and ask questions of TZHS students and staff.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is there a mentor program for freshmen?
Yes, we have a Peer Leader program, which ties a select group of upperclassmen to each freshmen English class and visits their English class periodically throughout the year, as well as provides a tour of the high school on the first morning of classes and hosts additional social get-togethers throughout the year.

Can current eighth-graders shadow current ninth-graders for a day?
This is not currently a part of the transition plan, but this is something we could explore in the future. The challenges would be transportation, supervision, accommodating an extra 250 students in the hallways of TZHS and into classrooms that are already in session with an average of 26 assigned students. The logistics could prove challenging.

How do TZHS and SOMS work together to lesson transitional stress for both students and parents?

  • TZHS hosts an 8th Grade Orientation night, where students and their families are able to hear first-hand of the options available to students at the high school.
  • SOMS counselors work with 8th graders to help them identify appropriate courses to pursue during their freshmen year.
  • TZHS underclassmen visit SOMS 8th graders to share their “lessons learned” thus far in their high school experience.
  • The TZHS Curriculum Guide is available online and offers a full description of all the courses available at the high school.
  • On the first day of school, we run a two-hour delay schedule for students in grades 10-12 so that freshmen have the whole high school to themselves. They meet as a full grade and participate in a brief presentation related to our expectations at the high school and ways they can get involved beyond the school day, right from the start of the year. Then, Peer Leaders provide a tour of the building and provide additional guidance through their common ground as being a current student at the high school.
  • Within the first several weeks of school, each counselor hosts a get-to-know you meeting with groups of their freshmen to initiate this new relationship and ensure that all freshmen knows how to access their counselors as needs or questions emerge.

TZHS students visit Cottage Lane through the Heroes and Cool Kids program. Will they be visiting SOMS too?
No, not this year. This program is currently designed for Cottage Lane. However, other student groups from TZHS visit students at SOMS with a similar message and goals—to inspire middle school students to make good choices.
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What is the student/teacher ratio?
12:1, based on our roughly 1100 students and 90 teachers.

 What is the average class size for the core subjects?
The Board of Education seeks an average class size of 26, and we fall within those guidelines.

What is the largest class size?
There may be up to five sections in any given year (of our roughly 550 sections each year) that have 29 or 30 students in them.

At Orientation, there were ELA books on display in the cafeteria; however not all parents had the opportunity to visit the table during the speed round. What books were on display and are these the books they’ll be reading next year?
The books on display during 9th Grade Orientation were reflective of texts read this year in our various freshman level English classes. Text selections have not been finalized for next year, but these text titles will be included in course outlines for these classes next fall. Curriculum maps available on the Curriculum & Instruction website list some of these titles as well.

In the past it seemed there weren’t enough sections of ‘regular’ Regents Math. If the regular sections were filled up, students were placed in remedial sections, whether they needed them or not. Does this still happen? If yes, why don’t you increase the number of sections to reflect student needs, rather than placing students in classes not appropriate for them? (A few parents based this question on their experiences with older siblings.) 
During the spring, students requests courses for the following year. Based on these course requests, we build a master schedule. When these requests change in the fall, there may not be room to accommodate each student’s exact needs, as classes are already in progress or have already been filled with other students seeking the course. In the area of math, we offer Honors level, Regents level, and Regents with a lab, which offers students two extra periods of instruction over a six-day cycle.

At SOMS, the four core teachers work on teams. They have the same group of students, and they meet once a week or so to discuss any concerns regarding a student. If a parent has a concern, they can schedule a team meeting with the 4 core teachers and guidance. Is TZHS set up in the same or similar way?
At TZHS, teachers are teamed by department, which allows for continuity of programming across the entire discipline as well as for each individual course. This type of teaming ensures a more common experience for all students in a given course. Since high school teachers teach a wide variety of courses and levels, grade level teaming that is appropriate at the middle school level does not work at the high school level. To make that work, we would need to drastically reduce the number of levels (Honors/AP/labs) and the number of electives at the high school level. However, our work with RTI, CST, and the counseling team regularly communicate concerns regarding student progress, and we work with families and the TZHS team to ensure that students have access to appropriate supports.

What books should students read over the summer to help prepare for freshman year?
Some classes do have required summer reading, and this information will be distributed to students in June, as well as posted to the TZHS website and shared with local public libraries.

When are study halls scheduled? SOMS tries to schedule them towards the end of the day; does TZHS do the same?
Study halls are built to fill in the “holes” in a student’s schedule once their core classes and elective classes have been created. These may fall at any point during the day. Some students utilize the Maker Space, access Learning Center supports, volunteer with special programs in the school, or work with their teachers during these scheduled study hall times.

How are tests used to promote learning rather than just assess learning?
At the high school, “tests” are typically summative assessments that indicate what students have learned during a particular unit of study. However, this is only one of many types of assessment utilized. Teachers are continuously gather input on student learning through formative assessments, which range from formal quizzes to “Do Now’s” or “Exit Slips” and classroom activities, where teachers are able to monitor learning at the individual student level.
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Are teachers available for individual help before and/or after school?
Yes, teachers set office hours both before and after school.

What academic support is offered for non-classified, struggling students?
Students are quick to express the value of our Learning Center. This class provides the opportunity to gain valuable interdisciplinary skills, like study skills, note-taking, organization, etc. It also offers small-group instruction for specific course re-teaching and guidance. Also, upperclassmen are available through the Learning Center to provide additional tutoring and re-teaching supports.

Is peer-tutoring available on campus?
Yes. The Tutor Team is a student-led initiative that aims to pair academically strong upperclassmen with underclassmen who are seeking additional academic supports.
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Generally, what’s the difference between Regents and Honors courses?
For information, click here to view the Selecting Freshman Year Courses webpage.

Is the difference between Regents English and Honors English just that Honors classes read two additional books?
No. While Honors English does read more literature, they also read more literature more independently. While a Regents class may read a text together in class, with the teacher helping with basic plot comprehension strategies, at the Honors level, students thrive when they enjoy reading independently and have a strong foundation of plot comprehension and analysis. The Honors class time is invested more in discussing deeper literary analysis.

In addition, Regents English provides systematic, overt instruction in general writing structures. Honors English focuses on advanced writing structures, so students with strong enjoyment and aptitude in writing build quickly upon that solid foundation.

What is the difference between Living Environment Honors and Living Environment Regents?
Both courses take the Regents exam at the end of the course, but students in Living Environment Honors are also prepared to take the SAT II Subject Test in Biology as well; this test is generated by the College Board and is an entrance exam for many colleges, also potentially yielding students credit when they enroll in college.

Are AP and Honors classes the same thing?
No. AP classes are college-level courses that follow curriculum approved by the College Board and culminate in an AP exam, with a fee set by the College Board. Students earning a score of 3, 4, or 5 (out of 5) may be eligible to receive college credit from the colleges they eventually choose to attend, based on that individual college’s expectations and policy. Honors classes are a mid-way point between Regents-level rigor and AP-level rigor. Students in Honors classes also prepare for any associated Regents exams, but the expectation is for greater commitment to the content as evidenced through more independent work outside of class time, more writing and problem solving at a higher level, and more rigorous reading throughout the course, which requires a higher level of critical-thinking. While our Regents-level courses also highly value critical thinking and rigorous learning, Honors coursework requires more commitment of the students themselves.

How do I know if my child is better suited for AP or Honors?
The transition to a new school can be challenging, especially with the added freedoms of high school, the options of ways to get involved academically and socially, and the recognition that all earned grades go on a transcript that colleges one day will see. Recognizing all of these factors and the other tricky aspects of being an adolescent, we encourage students and their families to think holistically when considering whether or not an honors class (or several honors classes) is in their best interest as freshmen.

Students do not need to take Honors classes in grade 9 in order to access honors and AP classes in grades 10, 11, and 12.

To help alleviate the anxiety of students entering the high school, we encourage top academic performers with well-developed study habits and well-managed anxiety levels to take Honors classes. For students who frequently feel “stressed” or “overwhelmed” about their grades, a more healthy option may be to excel in Regents level curriculum for their freshmen year and explore Honors classes in grade 10.

Mental health is far more important than the word “honors” on a transcript, and we are seeking to support families in ensuring their child has a successful transition to the high school.
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How do students make up missed PE classes?
Class attendance is a part of all course grades at TZHS, and students who are absent for PE class may make up for missed class periods by signing up for a before-school or after-school session in the last two weeks of the quarter.

Do students change for, and shower after, gym class?
In order to participate in PE class, students must change into appropriate clothing for physical activity. Showers are available to students, if they choose. (However, practically speaking . . . students don’t choose this option.)

Do students have secure lockers while they are in PE? Who provides the locks?
Yes, students are offered a locker in the first week of school, and they are encouraged to bring in their own lock from home and to lock all items inside their PE locker when their items are unattended.

Are freshmen on the JV sports teams?
Yes, most freshmen involved in athletics at TZHS participate in JV programs.

Are there modified sports in high school?
No, there are not modified athletic teams at TZHS.

Are there other non-competitive sports team/clubs – for example pick-up games or open gym?
We currently offer a ski club and a ping-pong club. These clubs were proposed by students, as are all other co-curricular clubs.

What percentage of freshmen participate on sports teams? What percentage of total student population?
Roughly 62% of freshmen participate in an athletic team at TZHS, and this percentage of student involvement spans grades 9-12.
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Do students stay on campus during non-school hours to work on projects and activities (non- sports and drama club related)?
The school building opens to students at 7:30 each morning. Most co-curricular clubs meet after school. Peer tutoring and study groups also occur outside of school hours and sometimes occur on campus.

Can students use/carry cell phones during the day?
Yes. Students may keep their cell phones on silent or vibrate. When their teachers allow, students may use their cell phones in class for educational purposes, but since each student has access to his or her own Chromebook, this has grown less common.

Are there dances, field trips and overnights (not Project Graduation) available?
Yes, many areas of the curriculum and co-curricular clubs offer field trips to students. In addition, there are a small number of overnight trip opportunities to students as well.

What social and emotional support is offered to students?
It is our goal to ensure each student has a least one adult to whom they can turn at any time during the school day. When issues or concerns emerge, those trusted adults work closely with our counseling team to ensure adequate plans are enacted to ensure follow-up supports remain available to students and that parents are aware of these resources and supports as well.

Do high schoolers carry backpacks to classes or do they have to use string bags?
TZHS students are permitted to carry their backpacks throughout the day. However, we encourage students to use their lockers, which are sized appropriately to accommodate their books, coat, and bag. The best practice is to visit the locker three times per day (before school, at lunch, and after school).

Do high schoolers really not use their lockers during the day? If not, why? Are there enough lockers for all students?
We installed new lockers in 2015, and while more students use lockers now than they did with the prior, narrow lockers, still, most students choose to carry their bags. It would be wise to use a hybrid plan—storing their afternoon books and materials in their locker during the morning and then switching materials during their lunch periods.

What type of off-campus organized student activities are offered?
Some co-curricular clubs, athletic teams, and some elements of the curriculum include projects that take place off campus. These may include social gatherings or community-based projects.
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What character education/anti-bullying programs are in place?
At TZHS, we infuse elements of character education throughout the curriculum, addressing topics of diversity, respect, and care. Our VAASA club, various honor societies, various community-service based clubs, Heroes and Cool Kids, and Peer Leaders all provide opportunities for students to get involved in something bigger than themselves. We also invite guest speakers in to speak with students periodically. An upper-level Social Studies elective class titled “Citizen Leadership: Character in Action” fosters opportunities for students to build a broader understanding of how to contribute to our local community.

Drug use and underage drinking is not uncommon among adolescents. What do you do when you become aware of a student using drugs or alcohol?
When we learn of specific students using drugs or alcohol, we talk with them about the risks. If this use is during the school day, there are disciplinary consequences. If this is beyond the school day, we work to involve the student’s family. As a community, we need to consistently communicate a clear message to young people that until age 21, alcohol is not permissible and that illegal drugs are not only illegal but also harmful in both the short and long-runs.

What drug and alcohol prevention programs are in place?
Our health classes at TZHS place much emphasis on drug and alcohol prevention. We also host Rockland County’s CANDLE program on campus.

What is CANDLE?
CANDLE is a community counseling resources with a site at TZHS. More information is available through their website. (http://www.candlerockland.org/) This resource is available to students in SOCSD, and we have students from SOMS and TZHS take advantage of this resource each year.

What suicide prevention programs are in place? What support is provided for at-risk students and their families?
When we become aware of students in mental health crisis, we work with students and their families to connect them with appropriate resources, which vary according to the unique circumstances of each case. These resources may include recommended visit to the Emergency Room, referral to the Rockland County Behavioral Health Response Team, or provide families with the names of some local mental health experts.

Are these programs available to all students during regular school hours?
Schools serve as supports and liaisons to help connect families with local resources. School counselors and school psychologists are trained in mental health but are not substitutes for outside therapists for students vocalizing thoughts of self-harm.

What happens if a student is being bullied? How does the school handle that? Who should they reach out to?
Students who feel they are being targeted by bullying behavior should share these concerns with any adult at school. Those concerns will ultimately connect them with their school counselor and/or a school psychologist, and the counseling team will work with the student, his or her family, teachers, and administration to develop a plan to investigate and curb any future bullying behavior. Our goal is to ensure all students are safe and feel safe at TZHS.

How many suspensions and/or expulsions have there been over the past 4 years?
There have been no expulsions. We have a very low suspension rate. Out-of-school suspension is only utilized in the most serious disciplinary infractions or in cases where progressive discipline is warranted.
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Which 3 colleges are most popular among TZHS graduates? (Which 3 colleges inevitably see the largest number of graduates attend?)
Rockland Community College is typically the most well-attended college among our graduates. As a high school, we know where students and their families report that they plan to attend, but when their plans change after graduation from high school, they often do not update us of those changes. College and university popularity varies by cohort. One year, nearly a dozen students will plan to attend an out-of-state university, and the next year, no student pursues that path. Consistently, the SUNY and CUNY systems attract many of our students. Our school profile can provide more cohort-specific data.
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Are a minimum number of community service hours required each year and/or for graduation?

Does TZHS provide opportunities for community service hours?
Yes. Our co-curricular clubs, athletic teams, and honor societies offer a wide-array of ways for students to be involved in community service projects.
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What type of guidance is provided in selecting classes each year?
At TZHS, each teacher provides direct guidance to each of their students regarding what courses they recommend for the subsequent year. In addition, each school counselor meets with each student to review these teacher course requests, students’ thoughts regarding academic pursuits and interests, and collaboratively determine appropriate next steps. We then mail this comprehensive list of each student’s course requests to parents and allow time for their feedback before finalizing courses requests each year.

How do you help students learn to better manage their time, studies and workload?
Our freshman courses infuse elements of time management and study skills into the curriculum. Other course levels do this as well, but the freshmen curriculum specifically is designed to provide this support. In addition, our Learning Center and Academic Center classes provide ongoing instruction in these areas to promote greater students success.

Do students talk about/discuss career goals with anyone? Do counselors help students choose electives that will support future fields of study?
Yes. School counselors talk formally with each student each year through our course selection process and with juniors specifically through each junior’s college and career counseling meeting, which includes the student’s parents when possible.
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What percentage of ninth-graders take two electives?
This varies from year to year, depending on the interests and academic readiness of various cohorts. Roughly 60% of freshmen take two electives. Those students are typically enrolled in one music class and one other elective.

When freshmen and seniors are enrolled in the same course, how do teachers differentiate instruction?
Teachers differentiate instruction in all courses, even when all students are in the same grade level. This differentiation can occur in a variety of ways, including but not limited to choice in assignments, small-group instruction, and varied forms of instruction and assessment. It is largely in PE and music where we see students in grades 9-12 all in one section.
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What are homework expectations? How many hours of homework can be expected each day? How many hours for Honors students?
This answer varies. Most Regents-level classes require an average of 30 minutes of homework per class per night, whereas Honors and AP level classes, on average, may require an hour of homework per class per night.
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Do all the freshmen eat lunch together during the same period?
No. Freshmen and all other TZHS students are assigned a lunch period during one of three lunch periods.

Can freshmen leave campus for lunch?
No. Only seniors in good standing and with their parents’ permission are permitted to leave campus during their lunch period.
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What is the audition process for the high school music classes?
TZHS music teachers coordinate with SOMS teachers for TZHS music teachers to hear SOMS students play or sing during their regularly scheduled music classes. This occurs during the midterm testing week at TZHS, which is near the end of January each year. Based on each students’ audition that week, in tandem with their ongoing performance throughout their year at SOMS, they are recommended to continue in their music sequence at TZHS or to advance to a higher level of performance, if they are experientially prepared for this program.
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Other than PTSA, Red & White Club, and Project Graduation, are there opportunities for parents to volunteer in the building or partner on projects?
Yes. We have parents that help with a number of our co-curricular clubs and some classes. We encourage parents to share with teachers and club advisors their willingness to get involved and their specific areas of expertise.

Are there any booster clubs other than the Athletic Department’s Red and White Club?
Some athletic teams and music groups have parent-run booster clubs.

When and how are parent/teacher conferences set-up?
Roughly two weeks prior to Parent Teacher Conferences, we e-blast information on how parents can sign up to meet with their child’s various teachers. This sign-up option is for both the afternoon conferences and the evening conferences. Parents have shared positive feedback in using this system that allows them to visit with each teacher in a timely manner and without waiting in long lines.

How long should it take a teacher/staff member to return a phone call or email regarding a student in an non-emergency situation?
Email is the best way to initiate contact with teachers. It is reasonable to expect a reply within 48 hours, and when you require more timely feedback, please call the main office, and we will leave a written message for the teacher regarding your email inquiry. Sometimes the district’s SPAM filter is too ambitious and filter out parent emails. A follow-up phone call to the Main Office is always a good idea to ensure a timely reply is offered.
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Can students leave the building at any time they choose?

Are students required to have student ID badges on them at all times?
Not at this time.

Do student ID’s get checked when students enter and leave the buildings?
Sometimes. When we are getting to know seniors in the beginning of the year, we rely heavily on ID checks when seniors (with permission) leave during their lunch periods.

Do students need parents’ permission to leave/go home when ill?
Yes. Any student who feels ill must report to the nurse’s office, and she will be in contact with the child’s parents in order to determine an appropriate plan. If that plan includes leaving school for the day, then upon arrival at TZHS, the parent should sign in at the security booth and then report to the nurse’s office to sign out his or her child.

What building security measures are in place at the high school? Similar to SOMS?
All guests to the building must sign in with the TZHS Security team at the front entrance. All other exterior doors are locked to the outside. Students, faculty, and staff (but no outside guests) may also enter the school via the gymnasium lobby, where a Security Guard is stationed throughout the day. During a guest’s visit, they must wear the visitor badge they receive. Other than students, faculty, and staff, no one is permitted in TZHS without signing in through the procedure outlined above.
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What can a student do during their lunch or study hall period? Roam halls? Use library? Use computer lab in library? Use maker space in library? Leave the building?
Students assigned to study hall may either attend their study hall or obtain a pass to go to the library, a computer lab, or the makerspace. They may not leave the building. Only seniors in good standing and with their parents’ written consent may leave campus, and only during their lunch period.

Where are study halls held?
Study halls are held in classrooms that are not holding a class that period.
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TRANSPORTATION (including drop-off and pick-up)
Which students are eligible for busing?
Students who live more than 1.5 miles of Tappan Zee High School are eligible for busing.

What is the drop off, pick up, and early-dismissal protocol for families who are ineligible for busing?
Parents who drop off and pick up their children at TZHS should do so via the gymnasium entrance from Bataan Road. The building is open at 7:30am each morning. The front driveway is open to buses only from 7:40-8:15am.

Regarding early-dismissal, students should bring to the Attendance Office a note from home stating the specific date, time, and reason for their early dismissal. The Attendance Office may call to confirm this arrangement. Parents should pick up their child(ren) at that prescribed time.

What is the emergency early-dismissal procedure for students’ ineligible for busing?
In the event of an emergency early dismissal due to weather, students not eligible for busing would follow their family’s emergency early dismissal plan. In the event of emergency evacuation, all students would follow the same protocol, even it that included busing to another location. Parents would be notified through our School Messenger phone service.

Since our student population is declining, will ineligible busing students be able to take the bus to TZHS anytime soon?
No, SOCSD is not considering this at this time.
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