Lakewood schools welcome students | SLIDESHOW

LAKEWOOD — A crisp, sunny morning greeted more than 2,000 students enrolled in the Lakewood School District as they hopped off buses, hugged old friends, unpacked their supplies and settled in for the first day of school on Sept. 4.

Students at Cougar Creek, English Crossing and Lakewood elementary schools, Lakewood Middle School and Lakewood High School are back in school and ready for new classes, new teachers and even new friends.

“He’s excited to be here this year, so we are trying to make it as fun as possible,” said Kelly Bowie, whose son Landon Bowie is in third grade at Lakewood Elementary School. “He was home-schooled before this, so it’s kind of like a new school again for him.”

Attending Lakewood schools is a bit of a family tradition for the Bowies.

“It’s funny because I actually went here, from kindergarten to 12th grade,” said Kelly Bowie. “There are some teachers still here, and even some office administrators too, from when I was in school.”

This year marks the second for Lakewood Elementary School as a Pre-K to fifth-grade school. In previous years the school was host to Pre-K to second-grade classes, but in 2011 it switched to include the older levels.

“With last year’s reconfiguring, there was all this change — new teachers, older students,” said principal Amy Staudenraus. “I’m excited to keep momentum going this year.”

In addition, to the change in grade levels, this year the school will see a change in educational standards.

“The new Common Core state standards is our area of focus this year,” said Staudenraus. “We’re just getting everybody on board with knowing the new standards. It’s a lot more rigorous. It’s a higher level of thinking. It’s not just about doing more work, it’s about what kind of work. They are focusing on a lot more research and critical thinking. It’s really exciting.”

The Lakewood Elementary PTA is also starting a new program this year called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students).

“We have a very active PTA,” said Staudenraus, who mentioned the group’s upcoming movie night kick-off. “The Watch D.O.G.S. program is a way to get dads to come in during lunch-time and recess and kind of be a  strong male presence for the students. It’s getting fathers more involved.”

The first day of school held a lot of implications for the kids. Younger ones learned the Pledge of Allegiance. Older ones eagerly awaited the school-wide assembly where they could greet friends they hadn’t seen over the summer. Each month, the school chooses a different character trait as its focus. “This month is respect. It will really help to remind them how to behave in class, as well as at recess and in the lunchroom,” said Staudenraus.

Samantha Stride, a fourth-grader, grinned and jumped off the bus when she saw a group of her friends at the front of the school. “I’m excited for the school year,” she said. It was a sentiment echoed by other students and staff.

“Landon’s teacher is amazing,” said Bowie. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Do you see how much Ms. Strittmatter smiles?’ It’s wonderful.”

Staudenraus agreed, “This is a great school. The true family feeling is amazing. I love it here.”

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