Arlington students head back to school

ARLINGTON — Fifth-grader Zac Hartman was not too thrilled to be heading back to school, but not for the typical reasons.

The former Trafton Elementary School student, along with his third-grade sister Sage, were now enrolled at Eagle Creek Elementary School after their previous school was shut down in June.

"They're going to make the most of it," said Jenni Hartman, the two children's mom, about the situation.

Approximately 5,500 students, including the children who attended Trafton last year and will be enrolled at Eagle Creek this school year, were scheduled to head back to the classroom in Arlington on Wednesday, Sept. 8 and Thursday, Sept. 9.

Students in kindergarten through ninth grade, including middle-schoolers, were back in the classroom Sept. 8, while 10th through 12th graders were slated to arrive the following day.

At Eagle Creek, emotions varied for both students and parents, regardless of whether they had Trafton ties or not.

Twins Trinity and Anders Farrell, who will be going into the fourth grade, arrived early with their grandfather, Mark Farrell.

"Nervous," was all Anders could muster about his feelings on the upcoming school year, as he and his sister stood outside Eagle Creek decked out with new lunch boxes and backpacks.

Graham Collins, an incoming third-grader who attended Trafton last year, also stood outside Eagle Creek before school with his big sister, Madeline Collins, who was dropping him off.

"I'm excited," Graham said, smiling. "I just want to get back to school."

A beaming Madison Ely, another third-grader, beamed as she and her mother, Ruth Ann Ely, walked to Eagle Creek.

"She's been pretty happy to be back," Ruth Ann Ely said.

Eagle Creek principal Denise Putnam, who spent most of the morning Sept. 8 outside the school talking with students and pointing them to where they needed to go, said that school staff and administrators have been doing their best to make all students feel comfortable on their first day, regardless of where they went to school before.

"We're trying to make everybody feel good and welcome," she said.

While Eagle Creek may have had the most new faces, other district schools also welcomed back students both days.

Arlington School District spokeswoman Andrea Conley said that district staff is looking forward to again putting the focus on students.

Throughout the spring and summer months, the Arlington School Board went through a much-publicized budgeting process in which they cut $1.5 million from their 2010-11 expenditures.

Those cuts required the Board to close Trafton and eliminate a number of classified and certified staff.

"Everybody is aware of the budgetary problems, but they're in the background," Conley said. "We're all focused on the students."

The district also made a number of administrative changes, most notably moving former Post Middle School principal Brian Beckley to Arlington High School to serve as principal.

Former Post teacher Dave McKellar, who has most recently spent time in the Marysville School District, will be taking over for Beckley this year.

The new principal said on Sept. 8 that his first day of school as an administrator went smoothly.

"So far it's surpassed my expectations," McKellar said. "Probably a quarter of our staff was here when I was a teacher. It's great to be able to get back to those relationships again. As a first-year principal, we're hoping to make sure the year gets started right."

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