Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault reported to the school board on a fairly smooth first day of school in St. Michael-Albertville yesterday. Over 750 staff members were on duty to welcome nearly 6,300 students into STMA’s schools for the 2017-2018 school year. Here’s some of the highlights and glitches that Day 1 brought about:
Less Crowded Parking Lots (with one exception)
The STMA district now picks up 334 students from the Albertville/Otsego area that they selected to offer fee-based bus transportation. That is the equivalent of 4 busloads of students (2 busloads for elementary and two for middle/high school.) As expected, Foucault said this has resulted in a less hectic morning drop-off at schools that get the most open enrolled students. Middle School West has 120 out-of-district students arriving via bus this year, and Big Woods Elementary has 107.
Albertville Primary principal, John McDonald, said their school made some minor adjustments to their parent drop-off. He reported there were no more than three cars waiting at any one time on their first day of school, which was Wednesday due to holding kindergarten orientation on Tuesday.
“That was kind of huge for us, because usually it’s backed up,” he said. “It was really smooth.”
One exception to the less-crowded parking lots yesterday was at STMA High School. The parking lot is busy in general, with the largest student body this school year that the school has ever seen. On top of that, the high school administrators reported there were 300 after-school parent pick-ups on the first day.
“For the first day, a lot of parents want to drop their kids off or pick them up,” explained assistant principal Steve Scherber. “I think after the amount of time they waited in line they’ll be putting their kid on the bus tomorrow.”
Big Woods principal Lee Brown reported a few minor transportation issues yesterday: one first grader who did not get off the bus at the school but was found ‘right away,’ and another first grader who refused to get on a bus after school because he said it wasn’t the right letter bus his mom had told him to get on. After some checking, Brown reported the student was correct.
“I’m not sure what’s happening with the first graders,” she joked.
Foucault also said one school bus route was running 20-30 minutes behind yesterday morning, and there were some communication trouble with the bus garage on special education routes, but she said they are working to improve these situations.
Foucault said she heard a heartwarming story from Fieldstone Elementary yesterday, where a student ran and jumped into the arms of her paraprofessional, who she hadn’t seen since last school year.
“That really just goes to show you how our staff has strong relationships with kids,” Foucault said. “Those positive relationships contribute to our success.”
Middle School East students were greeted on their first day with the musical stylings of choir director Aaron VanDanacker, who was playing the keyboard in the school’s atrium.
The latest student count shows the STMA district with 67 additional students than they expected for the 2017-18 school year, which Foucault said is good news for the district’s budget.
The high school reported crowded hallways as they dealt with the largest freshman class yet in STMA history, but Scherber said they were expecting that. To accommodate the large student body, the high school switched to having four lunch periods versus their usual three. Foucault said the transition went smoothly due to staff creating a PowerPoint presentation they delivered to students to explain the changes and the new zones. They also set up a stoplight system so students could see when they had a yellow light, signaling their lunch period was wrapping up shortly.
Middle School West principal Andy Merfeld noted how impressed he was with his school’s WEB Leaders yesterday. WEB Leaders are eighth grade students who act as mentors and helpers to incoming fifth graders. He said the WEB Leaders were on the ball for their first day, guiding students to classes, helping with lockers and answering questions.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to see,” Merfeld said. “They got there before I did for every kid who needed help. It was fun to see them in action.”
“Overall, it was an excellent day,” Foucault said.