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Staying connected with Lakewood schools

Lakewood girls softball coach Steve Barker, left, shares a laugh with Matt Blair, assistant principal and athletic director for Lakewood High School, during the Lakewood School District’s kindergarten registration and open house. - Kirk Boxleitner
Lakewood girls softball coach Steve Barker, left, shares a laugh with Matt Blair, assistant principal and athletic director for Lakewood High School, during the Lakewood School District’s kindergarten registration and open house.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

LAKEWOOD — The Lakewood School District’s kindergarten registration and open house saw the cafeteria and gym of Lakewood High School packed with families on March 20.

Amy Staudenraus, the new principal of Lakewood Elementary, touted the school’s new PTA, which is now separate from that of English Crossing Elementary.

“All their events have been well-attended so far,” Staudenraus said. “We’ve got 100 percent of our teachers as PTA members, and our PTA enrollment is up 50 percent from last year.”

Lakewood Elementary PTA President Tracy Gieseke and Secretary Lori Wood greeted parents and students that evening, and expressed pride in building their numbers to 113 members for a school of only about 300 students.

“We’re really working on connecting with parents and the community,” said Wood, who noted that Lakewood Elementary copes with some of the highest free and reduced lunch percentages and student turnover rates in the district. “Our movie and reading nights have been packed.”

Gieseke added that a “Watchdog” program has also sought to involve more male volunteers.

Lakewood’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program was also represented that night, by Program Manager Linda Steinborn and Janet Krutsinger, a teacher for 19 years.

“ECEAP is free for limited income and struggling families,” Steinborn said. “We support them by contacting them to resources and helping them serve as resources for each other. It’s a great introduction to the school system. It provides a nurturing environment for students, with an emphasis on social skills.”

Matt Blair, assistant principal and athletic director for Lakewood High School, aims to create a hospitable atmosphere for older students as well, and touted the second year of the school’s “Cougar Covenant” as one tool to help foster a more welcoming spirit.

“We have 300 athletes who are being tasked with conducting themselves well in school, at practices, during games and out in the community,” Blair said. “We’re holding them accountable for doing right by physically visible, measurable means, and not just words.”

According to Blair, not only the student athletes, but also the athletic director, the coaches and the parents all play parts in maintaining the “Cougar Covenant.”

“The kids who play football need to be good to the kids who are just coming in and unsure about high school,” Blair said. “If a kid is getting bullied, he’ll have less of a sense of belonging. We’ve gotten calls and visits from other schools across the country about this program.”

While first-time kindergarten registrant parents such as Anna Anderson expressed regrets at not being able to see the schools that their children would be attending this fall, parents of incoming high schoolers, such as Jackie and Aahron Jensen, appreciated the opportunity to check out their own future school.

“I’m nervous but excited,” said Aahron Jensen, 14, currently enrolled at Lakewood Middle School. “I’m looking forward to playing more sports, being more involved and having more freedoms. I liked being able to see all the activities.”

Aaron echoed mom Jackie’s approval of the program that also promoted what high school students would need to do to prepare for college.

“I’m glad it wasn’t just, ‘Oh, this is what you’ll have to do for high school,’” Jackie Jensen said. “It was overwhelming but very well put together. I liked that it was in the gym as well, and that there were other students for him to talk to.”

 

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