Corbin H. Crable
Teachers decorated classrooms and maintenance workers put last-minute touches on school buildings as USD 231 counted down the days to a new school year Monday.
Pioneer Ridge Middle School sixth-grade teacher Erin Erickson said she has been working all summer to prepare for the new academic year.
“It starts pretty much the minute your students leave in May – making sure you’re collaborating with co-workers, decorating your classroom, lesson planning,” Erickson said, “and trying to get some rest over the summer, too.”
At Moonlight Elementary, crews continued to perform maintenance on the school’s modular classroom, which will house the school’s fourth-graders during the 2010-11 school year. The structure includes four classrooms, as well as restrooms and colored floor tiles that match those in the main building.
Rose Billick, a first-grade teacher at Moonlight, said that in preparation for the new school year, she has sent ‘welcome’ letters to her students and their parents. She also said she has “placed names on everything” in an effort to more quickly memorize students’ names.
Billick, who is in her third year teaching at Moonlight, said she already has had the chance to meet her students at a ‘Meet the Teacher’ night, hosted by the school district. In addition to ‘Meet the Teacher’ night, USD 231 schools this week have hosted orientation sessions, breakfasts, building in-services, ice cream socials and pool parties to get students, parents and teachers acclimated to their academic surroundings.
Billick said she appreciates such events because it helps students adjust to a new environment.
“It helps children feel more comfortable,” she said.
Bill Miller, director of operations for USD 231, said the school district is ready to welcome students this week.
“We’re prepared from an operational standpoint,” Miller said. “We have the modular classroom together at Moonlight, and we’ve made small upgrades here and there. We don’t have the capital funds we once did for projects, but we do what we can.”
Although Miller said he is unsure of the total number of students enrolled in USD 231 schools, or what the growth rate has been between last school year and this one, he said that for the district, the 2010-11 school year is “business as usual.”
“We’re dealing with our growth by adding that (modular) classroom space,” Miller said. “Students are going to see more of the buildings full. To the student and the parent, they’re going to see top-quality facilities and top-quality teachers.”
Erickson said she is looking forward to the full classroom that the coming school year will bring, and that often, teachers are just as excited – and nervous – about the new year as their students.
“That excitement on the first day – teachers very much feel that,” Erickson said. “We’re just as anxious to start a new school year, and I can’t wait to get to know these kids.”
Billick said she agreed.
“I love to meet (my students),” Billick said. “That energy they have when they walk through that door is priceless. I enjoy it as much as they do. But we understand they’re nervous. We try to build bonds with them and make them comfortable.”
Classes begin Thursday, Aug. 12 at all USD 231 schools for grades 1-8, as well as GEHS grade 9 and new GEHS students only. Aug. 12 will be a half day. USD 231 kindergartners and GEHS grades 10-12 will start classes the following day, on Friday, Aug. 13.
More information on the 2010-11 school year, including event and academic calendars for each school and for the district as a whole, is available at www.usd231.com.