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Students, teachers prep for 1st day
ARLINGTON — Julie Delaney has spent the week before the start of school on Wednesday, Sept. 3, getting her classroom at Pioneer Elementary ready for her seventh year of teaching kindergarten, from organizing art supplies to preparing name tags.
"For many of them, it's their first school experience, so I want it to be as warm and inviting as possible," Delaney said. "Everything is temporary on the first day. I'll give them different cubbies to put away their stuff, depending on who's taller or smaller. I'll also make sure our left-handed children are seated on the right ends of their tables, so they're not bumping their neighbors with their arms."
The Arlington School District is projecting an enrollment of 5,476 students at the start of this year, 596 of whom are expected to attend Pioneer Elementary. Of those who will attend her kindergarten class, Delaney makes sure her room accommodates the flow of her days' activities, from lessons at their desks to group time on the floor and small work groups at tables, much of which is done with iPads equipped with shock-absorbent rubber casings.
"About half of my students anymore have already used iPads at home, but they all learn that these are not toys, but the school district's property," Delaney said.
Delaney has seen more kindergarten students not only shifting to full-day classes, but also adapting to higher standards, tackling assignments that she would have expected to see second-graders working on 20 years ago.
"I've also seen more of an in-class presence from the superintendent and the principals," Delaney said. "They've got a good sense of the pulse of the schools. From our staff to our parents and the community, Arlington as a whole really seems to believe that it takes a village."
While Delaney encouraged parents of all ages of students to stay connected by following up on correspondence from their schools, she also advised parents of younger students to be brisk in dropping off their kids for the first day.
"Ironically, if a child is shy or nervous, a lingering parent can actually make the separation more difficult," Delaney said. "If you leave quicker, they tend to acclimate faster."
Meanwhile, the families who stopped by Arlington High School for its "Eagle Days" Aug. 25-26 were old hands at gearing up for the first day, although parents such as Ric Eastman and Claire Cundiff would have appreciated a bit more clarity in the order of sign-ups.
"We could have used a little more guidance in which lines we were supposed to stand in first," said Cundiff, whose twin daughters, Zoe and Kate, will start their freshman year.
"I would have welcomed a little more direction in the chaos," agreed Eastman, whose daughter, Leah, is also a freshman. Fortunately for Leah, her grandmother, Jenni McKernan, had attended the first of the two "Eagle Days" to find out the shortcuts ahead of time.
While Leah wasn't nervous at all, Zoe was struck by how "gigantic" her new school was, but looked forward to the "awesome" variety of subjects that awaited her.
"There's a lot more people here, and the classes will be way more complicated," said fellow freshman Charly Waddell, one of Zoe's friends. "But I have friends who are already here."
AHS senior Megan Manzano provided tours of the school during the "Eagle Days," in addition to suggesting various ways that students could connect with their new school.
"We've talked about DECA and sports and language clubs," Manzano said. "I also let them know how they could follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and how to get to certain places on campus. Your first day, you have to be ready to learn a lot, and integrate that knowledge into a new environment, so you should be willing to try new things."
AHS Assistant Principal Erik Heinz noted that the "Eagle Days" have been tweaked not only since last year, but also between its first and second days this year, to make it more efficient for students to pay for ASB membership and yearbooks, get their pictures taken for IDs and obtain class schedules.
"Next year, we're looking at opening some stations in the gym, to ease the congestion in the commons," Heinz said. "Some years are just more crowded than others, though, and this year was very crowded."
The most recently released student enrollment numbers for the district are as follows:
- Eagle Creek Elementary — 514.
- Kent Prairie Elementary — 595.
- Pioneer Elementary — 596.
- Presidents Elementary — 535.
- Haller Middle School — 675.
- Post Middle School — 567.
- Arlington High School — 1,701.
- Weston High School — 138.
- Stillaguamish Valley School — 155.
Of the district's 32 new hires, 14 are teachers, of which six went from Current Year Only to continuing contracts, and seven are para-educators, all of whom went from CYO to continuing contracts.
Of note are the district's two new principals. While assistant principal Alan Boatman was moved from Post Middle School to AHS, Mischelle Darragh was hired as the new assistant principal for Post, and Joseph Doucette is now the Stillaguamish Valley School principal and alternative learning administrator.
Andrea Conley, public information coordinator for the district, acknowledged that none of its schools made Adequate Yearly Progress this year, but because Kent Prairie is in its first year of not meeting AYP, it qualifies as a "school of choice."