School numbers up

School District 55 officials reported a smooth start for Sweet Home schools last week, with enrollment estimates running slightly ahead of the same time last year.

“The first week is officially over in one minute, with the kids,” said Supt. Larry Horton Friday.

Enrollment numbers available Monday showed enrollment up 36 students from last year, from 2,340 one year ago to 2,376.

“I’ve talked with prin-cipals,” Horton said. “Most of the schools thought they were better off than when school ended.”

Several schools are running slightly behind last year’s numbers for the beginning of the year. The Sweet Home Charter

School saw the biggest growth with 156 students, up from 111.

The district office received two phone calls from parents with concerns last week, both having to do with President Obama’s speech to students. The speech was not presented by the district although copies have been made for use by teachers or parents who want to show the speech.

Other phone calls have been fielded by administrators and secretaries, Horton said. Among those, he has heard about disgruntled parents complaining that their children now have to walk to school.

The School Board approved changes to bus routes to comply with state requirements in June. Under the requirements,

children who live within a mile of their school must walk except along routes deemed unsafe following criteria set by the state.

“We did our very best in March, April and May to hold those in our public meetings so they could be discussed,” Horton said.

The district also sent letters to parents. No one showed up to comment.

He agrees that he wouldn’t want a first-grade child walking nine-tenths of a mile to school, and he would be concerned too, he said. Parents’ fight, however, is with the Oregon Department of Transportation, and he suggested calling ODOT and getting the law changed.

“I would not want my first grader walking nine-tenths of a mile to get to school,” Horton said. He would take his child or find a ride, “but there are always circumstances that make it tough for people.”

The board’s decision probably won’t change though, he said.

Overall, problems were minimal, he said. “I’m looking forward to a great year,” he said.

“We had a very good start,” said Pat Stineff, principal at Sweet Home High School. “It was smooth. It was very busy. The counseling office has been busy getting everybody enrolled and dealing with class changed.

“We’re just looking forward to a really great year.”

The high school held a couple of assemblies to begin getting students involved, she said. Wednesday evening, the school held a welcome back dance between the main building and the main gym, and Friday, the school had a pep assembly.

“It was a very smooth first week,” said Hal Huschka, principal at Sweet Home Junior High. “Our attendance is where it was last year, around 365.”

The Web leaders, a group of eighth-grade students, worked with incoming seventh graders on Sept. 8, Huschka said. They did a great job of orienting the new seventh graders, introducing them to teachers and getting lockers.

“It went great,” said Glenna DeSouza, principal at Foster Elementary. “It was pretty smooth.”

The school has a lot of new families, she said, and this year, Foster held its open house the first week.

“We got to meet a lot of our new families,” she said. Usually, the open house is held the third or fourth week. Doing it early provided a chance for parents and the community to meet teachers and visit classrooms.

“We just had a great start,” she said. “The families have been great and supportive.”

“I was the guy learning,” said Jack Nickerson, principal at Holley Elementary. This is his first year in that position. “Everyone else knew what to do.”

The students would let him know how things work, he said. They also were remembering his name by the second day, something unusual in larger schools. “That was pretty special.”

Holley kicked the year off with an assembly the first day, he said. “I created a Holley chant thing. It was pretty cool.”

The teachers noted that the school doesn’t have a motto, so the school voted on several options. He expected to review and announce the results on Monday.

The district has some new services, including a drug and alcohol counselor from the county Health Department assigned to the district two days a week, Horton said. Last year, the service was available in the area but not at schools.

“We’re looking at some new things,” Stineff said. The administration has attended workshops on professional learning communities, and the school is looking at an on-line credit retrieval program.

At the same time, the school is preparing for requirement of one more science credit for this year’s sophomores, Stineff said. That will probably require new classes and new staff next year to meet the new three-credit requirement in science.