ARLINGTON — Thousands of students, teachers and staff returned to school campuses across Arlington on Sept. 4 for the first day of classes for the 2013-14 school year.
“Currently, Arlington Public Schools has an enrollment of approximately 5,474 which will be verified over the next few days,” said Andrea Conley, public information director, who noted that head counts in the classrooms will give a more accurate account of the enrollment numbers at Arlington’s four elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.
For most Arlington students, the first day of school was Wednesday, Sept. 4, though students in grades 10-12 did not begin until Thursday, Sept. 5. The campus at Post Middle School was buzzing with friends greeting one another after a summer apart, and first-year middle schoolers adjusting to their new environment.
“I’m pretty excited actually,” said Kody Reno, a sixth-grader at Post Middle School, who said he was still memorizing his class schedule. “I’m really looking forward to my science class. I love science.”
Sixth-grader Brooklyn Lamie was getting used to the new surroundings on her first day, but was overall happy to be back at class.
“Well, it’s kind of confusing right now because there are so many people running around,” said Lamie. “I can’t decide what I am most looking forward to. I’m excited about everything.”
Baylee Hedlund transferred to the Arlington School District from Marysville this year, and is planning on making new friends and learning new skills while attending Post Middle School.
“I’m actually really excited about being in middle school,” said Hedlund. “I’m looking forward to making new friends. I went to Cascade Elementary School in Marysville last year, but we moved to Arlington.”
Although the change in scenery can also mean new unfamiliar curriculum, Hedlund already has an idea on what classes will be her favorite.
“I’m most looking forward to my art class. I really love painting,” she said. “And I’m also excited for home ec, because I love cooking and want to learn more about it.”
Children were both excited and nervous as they donned back-to-school clothes and filed through the doors at Eagle Creek Elementary School, greeting new teachers and classmates. Perhaps even more nervous were their parents.
Rob Morlock stood waiting for his daughter, third-grader Haley, to arrive on the school bus and said he was going to miss seeing her every day.
“The bus picked her up and I met her here,” said Morlock. “I don’t know if I like the first day of school — I’m going to miss her. It’s always a tearful time. She was really excited, though. For a week now, she’s been getting everything ready and double-checking her school supplies.”
Haley is the older sister of Sawyer, a youngster who starts Apple Preschool this week.
Maria Soriano moved recently from Camano Island to Arlington and her daughter is in first grade at Eagle Creek, while her son is just starting kindergarten.
“It’s very exciting for both of them because we moved here from Camano Island, so it’s their first year here,” she said. “He is most excited for his first day of school.”
Superintendent Dr. Kristine McDuffy rode on a school bus packed with kids, as she does every year, and was joined by Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert.
“It’s just as exciting for us as it is for the kids, and I was thrilled that Mayor Tolbert joined me,” said McDuffy. “We are very excited for the 2013-14 school year. A lot of great work has gone on behind the scenes to get ready. We’ve done a lot of hiring and adding high quality people to our team. There is so much we want to share. Our focus is on supporting high performing teams across the organization. We are working in professional learning communities and a major focus is how to support those teams across the district.”
McDuffy anticipates that the final enrollment counts will be a slight increase over where the district was at the end of last year.
“One encouraging data point is that we have twice as many students coming from other school districts,” she said. “We hope that it’s our reputation and the range of options available to students — we’ve really made sure that there is a broad range of options to meet their needs.”
Tolbert was happy to interact with students on their first day of school.
“That was fun I really enjoyed it,” she said. “Some of the impressions that wowed me were the excitement of kids coming back to school and the amount of parents at the bus stop sending the kids off. With all the pictures and parents waving, it was hard to tell who was more excited. And when we got up to the school, some of the parents had driven up to meet them when they got off the bus — it’s great to see such family involvement in Arlington’s school district. What was also really impressive to me was the commitment and knowledge of the bus driver. I walked away with a renewed respect for that position, it was really neat. If I had a youngster going into elementary school, I would be really comfortable with the whole experience.”
This school year is expected to be a successful one — a feeling shared across the district.
“I think there is a real sense of optimism that we are on a really great path,” said McDuffy. “Finances have improved, we are focusing on our core work and our ability to add new members to our team. There seems to be an excitement in the air and a real hope for the future.”