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  • A night of music and celebration

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/23/2024 11:00:00 AM

    Each spring the district school choirs and bands perform in the Milton A. Williams, Jr. District Concert. The late Mr. Williams was a longtime Elmsford staff member who taught music for 40 years. If he had been there, it’s safe to say he would have been proud. Choir singing

     

    Interim Superintendent James Ryan said he knew Mr. Williams, and his wife Helen, who was a music teacher in a neighboring district.

     

    “I was always so impressed with the work Mr. Williams did in Elmsford,” Dr. Ryan said. “It is just a wonderful thing that each spring he is recognized.”

     

    The Alice E. Grady Elementary School Chorus opened the evening, directed by Christopher Funke. They shared tunes such as “Top O’ the Music to You,” and “The Fox.”

     

    The Grady Elementary School Band, conducted by Michael Webb impressed the audience with several selections, including, “We’re on a Mission to Rock” and “Danza Africana.”

     

    Band being conductedIt was during their performance that Mr. Webb announced the school had received a $13,000 grant from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. The grant was made possible through funding from the Capital Theater. The grant covers the cost of needed instruments from a list they were given.


    Grady was awarded one Bass Clarinet, three trumpets, two flutes and two clarinets.

     

    The Alexander Hamilton High School Chorus, directed by Dawn Zampell entertained with such numbers as Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida.”

     

    The audience was treated to a special performance by the Select Choir with their rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

     

    The evening wrapped up the AHHS Band. Director James Walton led them through several pieces, including “God Bless America,” and “All Glory Told.”

     

    He recognized the band’s seniors, some of whom have been playing for the past nine years and once again offered his congratulations to alto saxophonist Yuri Kryvoruchko, who was ranked in the top five in the state by the New York State School Music Association.

     

     

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  • Planning ahead, guidance counselors reassure parents of incoming freshmen

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/13/2024 2:00:00 PM

    It is always a good time to start planning ahead. That is exactly what Alexander Hamilton High School guidance counselors Monica Ahern and Stephanie Luccioni-Burns informed parents of incoming freshman.Group in library


    In their “Road to Success” presentation, the two outlined for parents what courses, and when, their child should take as they make their way through high school.

     

    “Making the transition from middle school to high school is difficult, things start weighing a little more,” Ms. Ahern said. “Every year counts.”

     

    Having said that, she did reassure parents that their student does not have to feel overwhelmed. She and her colleague are here to assist in any way and will help them to know what to expect and what is expected of them.

     

    Ms. Ahern said freshmen year is a year of transition for the students and teaching for them. They work with students to become more responsible and independent and how to be an advocate for themselves.

     

    Students will become familiar with Naviance, a college/career readiness program and they will begin to build a resume. This is also the time for students and parents to familiarize themselves with Google Classroom as it will be there good friend in the next four years.


    “If you take anything out of this, check the Google Classroom,” Ms. Ahern said.

    Google Classroom is a tool to help students keep track of their work, as it sets reminders, shares extracurricular and volunteer opportunities, summer programs, jobs and awards and scholarships.

     

    A students’ schedule will become more rigorous during their sophomore year as they begin to explore career options and take the PSAT, which is usually done in the fall. This is also a great time to begin to take AP classes too.

     

    The PSAT, Ms. Ahern told parents, is a practiced SAT exam and helps the students understand what the test is about and how it is taken so they know what they are in for when they take the SAT.

     

    “Parents should speak to their student about their interests, goals and future plans at this time,” Ms. Ahern said.

     

    Then the junior year, she said, “this is when it really picks up, the college process.”

     

    Again, students may opt to take the PSAT in the fall of their junior year in preparation of taking the SAT or ACT in the spring.

     

    This is also a good time to keep an eye on the Naviance program as it will inform students when colleges will be visiting AHHS and they can also update their resumes in the program. They should also begin to ask their teachers for recommendations to use as they begin to fill out college applications.

     

    “Parents, have a conversation with your child about possible colleges or majors,” she encouraged, adding that they should also plan to attend the Junior College Night hosted by the guidance department.

     

    Throughout the spring and summer she also encouraged parents to visit college campuses and, if possible, take tours. These are great, Ms. Ahern said, as it helps students see various types of campuses.

     

    As for asking a teacher for a letter of recommendation, Ms. Ahern advised that students ask someone they have a good relationship with and who is in the area they are considering studying.

     

    And finally, it will be here soon enough, senior year!

     

    Taking the SAT or ACT can be done in the fall of this year and it is also the best time for a student to meet with their guidance counselor to finalize a college list and begin to fill out the Common Application.

     

    “After COVID, many colleges went test-optional,” Ms. Ahern said, however, she explained more are increasingly returning to looking at test scores and she encouraged students to take at least one exam.

     

    Regarding the Common Application, it is accepted by most college and universities throughout the country and helps to make the application process more simple as they only need to fill out one, which is then submitted to all the colleges they are applying to.

     

    “We really do the Common Application with them,” Ms. Ahern said.  “We encourage them to apply early as it gives them a better chance at getting in.”

     

    And, this may be the most challenging part of the year, but students will need to keep on top of their school work.

     

    “Senior grades still count,” Ms. Ahern said.

     

    Parents will have some work to do as well. Including, she said, attending the college financial aid night and completing the FASFA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

     

    There are 22 credits students must accumulate order to graduate from high school, Ms. Luccioni-Burns said.

     

    “Colleges like to see that you’ve taken four years of math and science, even if you are only required to take three of each,” she said.

     

    She also noted that she encourages students to take more than one year of a foreign language, as well as physical education. This holds true for electives as well, she said.

     

    “We are pushing them to take more than what the state requires,” she said.

     

    For a Regents diploma, Ms. Luccioni-Burns said it requires one Regent English, one social studies, one math and one science and a Pathways 1 course. Students can also opt for an Advanced Regents diploma, but that is for students who truly want to go above and beyond and only state universities may consider it.

     

    “You need a 65 or higher to pass the Regents,” she said.

     

    Going back to Naviance, Ms. Luccioni-Burns said this a great tool that students, parents and the counselors can access. It can help students research, provides career assessments, assist with resume writing and can be integrated with the Common Application.

     

    “We do want to see the students challenge themselves,” Ms. Ahern said.

     


     

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  • Sixth graders dig into garden history lesson

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/6/2024 11:00:00 AM

    It was a beautiful spring day outside, cool temperatures with a bright, warm sun. The perfect day to spend time in the garden. Girl scooping dirt into cup


    That is exactly what sixth graders did at Alice E. Grady Elementary School. Gathering in the school courtyard, parent volunteer Adrian Rogers introduced students to a brief history lesson before they dug in the dirt and planted a special group of seeds.

     

    Students learned about the “three sisters,” a trio of seeds traditionally planted by many Native American tribes — corn, beans, and squash. The three have a symbiotic relationship and offer the other plants something they need to grow and thrive.

     

    Corn, Mr. Rogers explained, grows tall and its stalk provides structure for the beans to climb, while the squash grows near the ground and its broad leaves help protect the other plants.

     

    “Each plant has a role to play,” Mr. Rogers said.

     

    The morning also included a land acknowledgement, or a thank you to the land for helping sustain us and use it, as well as a remembrance of the Native Lenape people who once lived in or near Elmsford.

     

    Man plants in raised garden bedIt was then time to dig in! Students selected one of the three seed options and planted them in dirt in a small cup. The cups were then arranged in a raised bed, watered and the waiting began. Once the plants outgrow their cups, they will be transplanted to another part of the courtyard.

     

    Materials for the project were provided by Home Depot, Sam's Club, Rosedale Nursery, the PTSA and the raised bed from a local upcycle group.

     

    “I like that everyone can come gather and garden together,” student Giuliana D. said of the project.

     

    “I started gardening at a young age,” student Ryan B. said, adding that projects like this “are pretty fun.”


    Earlier in the winter sixth graders attempted to start seedlings inside, which once it warmed up were transferred to a small greenhouse in the courtyard. The results were mixed, and like other determined, ever-hopeful gardeners, it was decided to try another gardening project which they hope will garner better results.

     

    “This is a great learning experience for the kids,” teacher Jacqulyn Warren said. “Not every garden is successful.”

     

    Getting the students outside also has its benefits, allowing them to work in a green space and gain an understanding of not only local history, but also historically how gardens were created to sustain those growing them.

     

    “Making these connections is important for them,” Ms. Warren said.

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  • So many possibilities! Dixson students learn about different careers during "Career Day"

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/3/2024 8:00:00 AM

    Children are often asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” During Career Day at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School, students learned the possibilities are endless!

     

    Some students had very decided opinions — doctor, cosmetologist, police officer and artist. Nurse holds stethoscope to child

     

    For those who may not be so sure, they learned from parents and family volunteers about all kinds of careers — dental hygienists, actuaries, landscapers, store directors, nurses, school counselors and more.

     

    “Have fun with the kids,” Principal Simone Grixti told volunteers before sending them into classrooms. “It’s about getting the kids excited about learning.”

     

    During a couple hours one morning, volunteers visited classrooms where they discussed what they do, what kind of education they received and what they enjoy about their work.

     

    Landscaper David Signor told students he helps take care of lawns, while Occupational Therapist Elizabeth Noreiga said she helps her patients with coordination. Dental Hygienist Gabriela Sosa helped students determine what foods were good and bad for their teeth while Nurse Aswani Leonard shared how she helps patients feel better when they visit the emergency room.

     

    “That’s cool! That’s cool” one student shouted in glee as Elmsford Police Officer Pedro Oliva turned the lights and siren briefly on the police vehicle parked outside the school. He also talked to students about how he and his fellow officers help keep the community safe.

     

    Students also got an up-close look at a firetrucks as local firefighters and EMS staff talked about what they do.

     

    “My son wanted me to come and talk about what his daddy does every day,” said parent volunteer Javier Sanchez, who is a store director with Target. He said students were curious if he got to work with the toys at the store and were intrigued when he told them how the merchandise is taken off of large trucks and organized to be put out for customers to buy.

     

    Police Officer waves to studentsVolunteer Elizabeth Noreiga, who works as an occupational therapist, said the students she spoke with did not know what an OT was, but she thinks she helped them to understand.

     

    “I loved it,” she said of visiting the classrooms and talking to students. “But it is hard to explain what I do,” she added with a laugh.

     

    “We want to expose students to different careers,” Ms. Grixti said of the annual event held at the school. “Show them what they are learning and how it connects to the real world and to get them excited about their futures.”

     

     

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  • Grady leaders inducted into National Elementary Honor Society

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 4/19/2024 12:00:00 PM

    The Alice E. Grady Elementary School has a new group of fifth and sixth grade leaders who are ready to serve following their induction into the National Elementary Honor Society. Group of students on stage

     

    “My heart is full, I know that I have taught all these amazing students,” NEHS advisor Christine Budzynski said during the ceremony held on April 17. “This is just the beginning of so many achievements you have ahead of you.”

     

    Students are selected for the honor not only for their high academic standing, but also because they exemplify the four principles of the NEHS, scholarship, responsibility, service and leadership.

     

    During the ceremony, selected inductees shared with the audience what each principle meant as a candle was lighted to represent them.

     

    SCHOLARSHIP: A commitment to learning

    RESPONSIBILITY: Commitment to doing what you say you will do

    SERVICE: Helping others to do what they cannot do alone

    LEADERSHIP: Exert a positive influence on your school

     

    “These children take pride in all the work they do,” Ms. Budzynski said of this year’s inductees. “They are the leaders of tomorrow and tonight we celebrate their achievements.”

     

    Ms. Budzynski said that since the start of the school year the students have done an outstanding job living the service principle, including organizing a food drive around the holidays, creating a garden club and hosting a “Souper” Bowl, collecting soup for those in need. In addition, she said, on most of days of the week students come to her classroom before school starts asking what they can do to help, whether it’s in their school or in the community.

     

    Girl lighting candle“I look forward to working with this wonderful group next year,” she said.

     

    The ceremony also included musical performances by the Grady Choir and the Grady Band.


    Each honoree received a certificate and a special NEHS pin.

     

    “I am so proud of you and all of your hard work and commitment to academic excellence,” Principal Andrea Hamilton told the students. “I’d like to make sure you know this doesn’t stop, you will continue your work and we are cheering you on!”

     

    “This is the first step in becoming true leaders,” noted Interim Superintendent Dr. James Ryan, whose statement was read as he was unable to be at the ceremony in person. “We are all very proud of you and wish you continued success.”

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  • Board adopts 2024-25 budget ahead of community vote on May 21

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 4/12/2024 3:00:00 PM

    The Elmsford Union Free School District Board of Education approved a proposed 2024-2025 budget of $45,315,278 in a 4-1 vote at its April 10 meeting. The community will have an opportunity to vote on the budget on May 21, 2024. Board presentation notice

     

    “It’s a collaboration of the needs and interests of our buildings and our district as a whole,” Interim Superintendent James Ryan said during his presentation at the meeting.

     

    The budget, Dr. Ryan said, continues its support of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular programs in addition to addressing staff at the high school. In addition to funding student focused initiatives, the proposed budget includes funding for improved safety measures, technology infrastructure, and a reorganization of district administration.

     

    Regarding school safety, funds are allotted for a new building and campus security system and a school resource officer program. In terms of technology, the budget addresses technological needs including a continuation of the districts computer replacement cycle, a new Voice Over Internet Protocol Phone System (VOIP) and partnering with the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Information Center for additional technology services such as data storage and cybersecurity assistance.

     

    Proposals for reorganizing administrative positions are also incorporated in this budget. This includes adding an assistant superintendent position to oversee Curriculum and Instruction, Technology and Certificated Personnel. This also calls for eliminating the districts Director of Technology position as well as that of the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Equity and Belonging and adding an assistant principal position that would support both Grady and Dixson.

     

    The district is asking the community’s support for several capital projects, amounting to $9,586,251, from funds the district has in reserve, but requires voter approval in order to be accessed.

    The capital projects include replacing HVAC and building control at Grady, roof replacement at both Dixson and Grady, classroom ventilators at Grady, the Hamilton parking lot, a district wide VOIP system and a new public address system at both Hamilton and Grady.

     

    Additional projects that may be addressed out of the general fund budget include new flooring in the fifth-grade wing at Grady and bathroom renovations at both Grady and Hamilton.

     

    Dr. Ryan said that the allowable tax increase is 3.962 percent, however, the actual increase in the tax levy amounts to 1.76 percent for the 2024-2025 year.

     

    “This is extremely responsible,” he said. “And is a figure that is $758,280 under the allowable cap that we could go to the public and ask for but, we believe we have a responsible number there.”

     

    The anticipated state aid for 2024-25 amounts to $7,961,393, a figure that Dr. Ryan said has historically been consistent. The district, he said, is fortunate that the state has supported it the way it has through the years enabling the district to balance off the amount they need to ask from taxpayers.

     

    “We appreciate the aid that comes our way, it does increase the bottom line, that’s where you get the 8.54 percent,” Dr. Ryan said of the total increase in the budget from the previous year.

     

    The impact on the taxpayer, considering the average home price in the district of $574,435, amounts to an increase of 1.09 percent or $105. As Dr. Ryan noted, the school district is not involved with assigning a tax to local homeowners, but the district uses information from the town to help identify the impact on local taxes for residents.

     

    The community is welcome to join in upcoming budget related discussions, including a board meeting presentation on May 1 and a budget hearing on May 8. For more details regarding the 2024-2025 education budget, visit the district website at https://tinyurl.com/4vv3ze72

     

     

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  • Grady Sharing Day demonstrates student pride in their work

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 4/2/2024 12:00:00 PM

    Students writing and research skills were all on display during the annual Grady Sharing Day.

     

    Each class had an opportunity to bring their special projects to the cafeteria where parents, caregivers and friends visited to see first-hand the work the students have been doing. Dad listens as son reads from his report

     

    “I loved that we got to learn about the past and history,” said fourth grader Ariana R.

     

    Her class studied the Harlem Renaissance, and she had focused on learning more about singer Ella Fitzgerald.

     

    Throughout the school year the class had learned of the five different text structures and combined that with what they had learned in social studies.

     

    Gabriel V. said he used descriptive text in his writing about Ella Fitzgerald.

     

    “I picked her because she as inspirational,” he said. “I learned a lot about her music and how she played at the Cotton Club.”

     

    Musicians were popular among students.

     

    Julius C. said he selected Louis Armstrong.

     

    “He played the trumpet,” Julius said. “I’ve always wanted to play the trumpet. I play the trombone.”

     

    Julius said this was a fun project too because he enjoys writing about composers.

     

    Girl reads her report to momFor Jayden B., he said he selected Jamaican poet Claude McKay because, “he made a voice for immigrants.”

     

    He preferred to write using the compare and contrast style, noting that he enjoyed it because he worked with his cousin, who studied Duke Ellington, and the two compared their historical figures.

     

    Fourth grade teacher Christine Budzynski said while it was a difficult project, students loved working on it because it combined what they were learning in language arts and history.

     

    “We learned about working in ELA content and about the great Harlem Renaissance,” Ms. Budzynski said, adding that her daughter who is currently studying AP history in high school is also learning about this time and its cultural impact and her students were excited to know that they were also learning similar information just like older students.

     

    Third graders came into the cafeteria bringing with them large trifolds that highlighted different weather phenomenon.

     

    “You will hear from the weather experts,” teacher Brittany Nelson told guests.

     

    Charlie L. studied floods and said he researched what floods were, how they happen, what hazards they can cause and how they impact the environment.

     

    Classmates Cindy G., David R., and Ethan G., worked together studying hurricanes.

     

    “They are very interesting,” David said as to why they selected this weather phenomenon.

     

    “Hurricanes are big storms that occur in Florida,” Ethan noted. “And they can destroy things all around the world.”

     

    Fifth graders were tasked with researching and presenting what they learned about different landscapes, such as mountain climates and the tundra.

     

    Chloe B. was intrigued with mountain biomes.

     

    “I liked doing it and learning about the climate,” she said about her project, adding that she studied the animals that live there, along with the plants and how pollution is impacting this environment.

     

    Lizbeth J. said she experienced a flood on the street where she lives, and it inspired her to research the China flood of 1931.

     

    She discovered in her research that 3.7 million people died and more than 850,000 were reported missing and it was the deadliest flood ever.

     

    She especially enjoyed making a 3-D model of the event and finding pictures that displayed what had happened.

     

    Raelyn T. researched the events of Hurricane Katrina after she had heard so much about this horrible event, including the impact on the people who lived in the storms path.

     

    “I got to explore Hurricane Katrina, I was doing professional research,” she said. “I learned a lot of the bad things that happened.”

     

     

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  • New Grady student leaders sworn in with special ceremony

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 3/18/2024 8:00:00 AM

    New members of the Alice E. Grady Elementary School Leadership Council were sworn into their roles in a special ceremony at the Village Hall on Friday, March 15.

     

    Presiding over the proceedings was Village Justice the Honorable Jay S. Bielat, who swore in each student while their council advisors, school principal and families looked on. Group with judge

     

    Council President Jack Rodriguez, Vice President Kayla Nisbett, both sixth graders, Secretary Frank Spinelli, and Treasurer Sam Adegbola, who are in fifth grade, each took a turn raising their right hand and repeating the oath of office after His Honor Bielat recited it.

     

    The judge asked each one if they would swear to lead with “enthusiasm, diligence and respect for all.”

     

    The oath continued, asking everyone to govern with a positive attitude and a sense of pride for their school and their peers.

     

    “Everyone of us is unique and special,” the judge told the new council members. “We are all different in many ways, because we are all unique, we may have our own opinions.”

     

    “What is very important, is that it is okay to agree to disagree,” the judge continued. “I’d like you to remember that.”

     

    Interim Superintendent James Ryan also addressed the council members.

     

    “This is an opportunity for us to grow and develop our young leaders, it is a charge we take very seriously,” Dr. Ryan said of offering young students a leadership opportunity. “The things you are doing to make your environment at Grady more positive is really commendable.”

     

    The ceremony was a first of its kind for the leadership council, and one Mayor Robert Williams hopes to continue in the future as new council members are selected. Students walked from their school and were escorted by the Elmsford Police Department to the ceremony that took place in the Village Court.

     

    Mayor Williams encouraged the students to think about participating in local government when they get older.

     

    “It’s very rewarding,” he said.

     

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  • Jim Frees rolls up his sleeves as the new Director of Facilities

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 3/6/2024 1:00:00 PM

    Jim Frees began his new role in the Elmsford Union Free School District on Feb. 12 and is ready to get to work.

     

    His focus, at the moment, is to “address any concerns that are a safety issue and look to employ some best  practices.” Man wearing tie

     

    “With any places I’ve worked before, I’ve always left them in better condition than I found them,” he said.


    Mr. Frees spent the last 18 years in different school districts, most recently in the Goshen Central School District in Orange County. He has another 14 years of engineering, property condition consulting experience and commercial property management experience.

     

    As director of facilities, Mr. Frees will oversee the operations of the buildings and grounds within the school district and he’ll work with school administrators along with the board of education on capital projects as well as any consultants the district works with including architects and engineers.

     

    “My plan is to spend time getting to know the people,” Mr. Frees said. “I spent the first two weeks meeting with all my staff, and I’ve met with administrators to find out what’s important to them, what we’ve done well and what we can improve.”

     

    He said he is inspired in his work by Steven Covey’s Seven Habits, which encourage people to “seek first to understand.”

     

    “The focus is going to be to align the facilities department with the motto of the Elmsford Union Free School District, which is ‘dedicated to excellence in education,’” Mr. Frees said. “We’ll focus on the facilities that are closest to the children; the condition of classrooms, cafeterias and restrooms and maintain a clean, healthy and safe environment.”

     

    “I’m happy they have chosen me to work with them,” Mr. Frees continued. “I look forward to hopefully doing great things here in Elmsford and working hand in hand with our facilities staff to maintain and create great facilities for our students to learn in.”

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  • Grady students celebrate Black History month with music, poetry and more

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 3/1/2024 8:00:00 AM

    After spending the day engaged in several activities related to Black History Month, the entire student body and staff of the Alice E. Grady Elementary School gathered in the gym for one enormous celebration of pride and culture. There was music, there was poetry, there was dancing and there was a whole lot of fun. Students standing around podium

     

    The Grady Band, led by director Michael Webb, opened the event with their musical sections of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “When the Saints Come Marching In.” This was followed by the Grady Chorus’ rendition of “I’ll Be There” and the spiritual “I’m On My Way,” led by music teacher Christopher Funke.

     

    The third grade sang Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” and the second-grade classes showed off their dance moves.

     

    In addition, students read several poems including “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou and “I Dream a World,” and “Dream Variations,” by Langston Hughes.

     

    Sixth grader Rhamin T. read an original poem, “Black Pride.”

     

    Kids dancing in gym“It came from my heart,” Rhamin said, explaining that he enjoys writing poetry and is inspired by poet Maya Angelou. He said that with this particular poem he was thinking about the tragic events involving George Floyd and other individuals.

     

    “I aspire to be a poet one day,” he said.

     

    Not to be outdone, but another dance party broke out amongst the fifth graders who shared some of their hip-hop moves.

     

    Before the event ended, the entire school sang the song that is often referred to as the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

     

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