Jill Krieger, the new principal at Manchester High School, says she's eager to see bustling students, staff and teachers fill the school's hallways.
Krieger, 56, comes to Manchester after two years as principal of Enfield High School and five years as assistant principal at Wethersfield High School. She replaces Matthew Geary, who is now Manchester's superintendent of schools.
"I always like summer," Krieger said. "I've had a lot to learn this summer. But I'm definitely really ready for everybody to come back. It'll be fun to have it really begin."
Krieger, who lives in Tolland and is originally from Windsor, is one of a few changes students can expect when they return to school on Aug. 28 and Aug. 29.
A major new initiative at the high school this year is the addition of six new academies. The academies, which include the performing arts, hospitality, science and other areas of studies, allow students to join a focused program of their own choosing.
"When you have a big school, the academy model really helps promote that smaller school feel within a big school," Krieger said. "You're now in a smaller group and you have teachers committed to that academy."
Krieger said she is impressed by Manchester High School's commitment to fostering a positive school climate.
"What really brought me here is the idea that a school climate is really important and that we really believe that all students should have all kinds of opportunities," Krieger said. "Having high expectations for all students, I really believe in that."
Krieger said her main goal this year is to develop strong relationships.
"[School climate] really connects to relationships, and that idea that everybody's input is really valuable," Krieger said. "I really feel so strongly that mutual respect is what drives a positive school climate. It's not just that kids should respect adults, it's that we all should respect one another."
Also new in 2014 is the addition of the "power hour", a one-hour block of freedom added to each school day that allows students to eat lunch, meet with teachers, attend club meetings or work on other academic projects.
Manchester High School is the first high school in the state to implement that model, Krieger said. The idea was modeled after a school in Florida with similar demographics to Manchester's.
"What that school found was that they had a tremendous increase in student involvement and a big drop in failure rates," Krieger said. "It says to students we have faith in you that you are able to have this kind of independence and that you'll use it appropriately."
All of the new initiatives were developed before Krieger was hired. She said she supports all of them, and before she makes any decisions about how to proceed, she needs to meet and understand the students and staff she will be working with.
"The important thing for me to do this year is to really take the time to get to know everyone here and understand how things are operating," Krieger said. "My goals initially are to have a really clear understanding of the school and the staff."