Middle, high school students start classes
EAGLE — Nearly 7,000 blessings from heaven head back to Eagle County classrooms this week.
Schools open today for high school freshmen and middle school students. The other high school grades start Friday, and elementary schools open Monday.
Unless you’re a kindergartener, then you’ve enjoyed what some local schools are calling a “soft opening.” Parents and students practice their goodbyes and pickups, speak with their teachers and the kids get balloons.
Hopefully, these friendly events will take the rough edges off the separation between children and parents — mostly parents — for Monday’s first official day.
“For about half the parents, this is their first go at it, the first time their children are going to ‘big kids school,’” said Mitch Forsberg, Gypsum Elementary principal. “It’s harder for the parents than it is for the kids most of the time.”
Forsberg and the Gypsum Elementary staff were resplendent Wednesday in their dark blue polo shirts with the Gypsum Jets logo emblazoned on the front — the official gear for Wednesday afternoon’s ice cream social.
Schools all over the district are hosting ice cream socials this week to introduce kids and parents to teachers and staff.
Some schools are growing, mostly those in the western end of the district.
Gypsum Elementary will welcome 336 students, 27 more than they thought they’d have, Forsberg said.
Eagle Valley High School will be above 900 students, featuring the school’s largest-ever freshman class.
“We’ve been growing about 50 or 60 each year over the last three years,” said Principal Greg Doan, entering his sixth year running Eagle Valley.
This year’s Eagle Valley freshmen class is around 250 students.
The sophomore and junior classes are around 235, and the senior class is about 160. They’ll know for sure when they all show up Friday.
Those 900 students are about all the school can reasonably hold, Doan said.
The school district is expected to ask voters this November to fund more space at some schools and extensive renovations at others. The district will also ask voters for a tax increase to increase teacher and staff pay.
In the meantime, they adapt. Eagle Valley’s staff has done things such as convert a weight lifting room and two computer labs into classrooms.
“We’re out of places to convert into classrooms,” Doan said, handing an extra chair to assistant principal Eric Mandeville, so one of those extra blessings from above will have a place to sit while absorbing the wisdom of the ages.
New faces, new places
Change can be hard, or at least hard labor. Eagle Valley’s Chuck Vogel had been in the same classroom for more than two decades, but the Powers That Be decided the social studies classrooms should all be in the same area.
Instead of moving everyone else upstairs, Vogel moved down. He did most of the moving himself, since school hadn’t started Wednesday morning and there were no strapping lads waiting to be liberated from detention to help him.
“No one has gotten uppity yet. Then again, school doesn’t start until tomorrow,” Vogel said, smiling as only a longtime teacher can.
Doan only lost four staff members after the last school year, and hired 13 to accommodate student growth and new programs.
Eagle Valley added a new tech program, STEAM, which is STEM with some right brain thrown in: science, technology, engineering, art and math. Todd Redding will teach that.
To juggle the growing number of students, more kids will have time off during the day, as long as they’re on track for enough credits to graduate, Doan said.
Eagle County Schools Superintendent Jason Glass said, “A new school year always comes with a new sense of optimism and purpose. We expect another record year in terms of enrollment and Eagle County Schools is excited about the future and potential of every one of our students. With so much knowledge at our fingertips, this is the most exciting time to be a kid. And with the many wonderful experiences available in our community, Eagle County is the best place in the world to grow up. For my family, our kids are growing up and going to school here and we couldn’t be more excited to watch them grow and thrive.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.