The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

School numbers are up as district kicks off new year, five-day week


September 12, 2017

Photo by Scott Swanson FOURTH-GRADERS try out the newly completed playground at Foster, seen below from an aerial perspective, on the first day of school.

Sweet Home school officials reported things went smoothly during the first week of school as students and staff adjusted to a return to a five-day schedule after four years on a four-day schedule.

Overall, enrollment was at 2,333 Monday, up 29 students from Sept. 12 last year and 60 from Sept. 11, 2015.

High school enrollment was 698, down from 715 last year. The Junior High was down one student to 353. Charter School enrollment declined from 145 to 128.

Hawthorne saw the biggest increase, 49 more students, a total of 355. Holley enrollment increased by eight to 161. Foster declined by nine to 340, and Oak Heights increased by eight to 298.

The largest class in the district is a fourth grade at Oak Heights with 31 students. Oak Heights has a third grade and a sixth grade with 30 students each, and Hawthorne has a fourth- and fifth-grade blend at 30.

“I think it’s a fantastic start when you consider 2,300-plus kids are kicking off the year,” said Supt. Tom Yahraes. “Overall, really great. We’ve had to make adjustments here and there.”

It went smoothly with the new start and times and the first early release day Wednesday, he said. Those new times especially affected busing, which is where most of the adjustments had to be made, and food services.

Smoke from fires across the state affected air quality in Sweet Home last week, Yahraes said. That was an unexpected challenge as officials monitored each building to make sure the children were safe.

The poor air quality changed sports schedules, forcing schools to cancel outdoor games and practices. The boys soccer team and the football team were able to play games, and the cross-country team competed in a meet at Cascade High School, near Turner.

Elementary schools added physical education to their schedules last week, and Yahraes participated with a class at Foster School as he toured schools districtwide.

“It was really fantastic, wonderful, that we have physical education,” Yarhaes said. “We’ve invested in it in our schools. It brings me great joy to see kids running, moving, jumping, smiling.”

Now it’s a permanent part of the elementary school experience, Yahraes said. “Even for a 50-year-old, it brings out the kid in you.”

Holley Principal Todd Barrett said the first week went “awesome.”

Holley held its annual pancake breakfast for students and families Tuesday morning, he said. It was smokey outside, but everyone just rolled with it.

The school adjusted easily to the five-day schedule.

“It seems like everybody’s OK with it,” Barrett said. Now students are getting academic instruction and food one more day a week.

“We have a chance to work with kids,” he said. “We get an extra day to work with them, and that’s where we’ll see (academic) gains.”

Sweet Home High School Principal Ralph Brown said he visited every class in the school last week.

“Principals have got to be involved in the classroom, seen in the classroom,” Brown said. They need to make sure students know the school’s pushing academic achievement and positive behavior.

Many students deal with challenges related to poverty and homelessness, he said. “There’s a lot of stress on the kids.”

He talked with staff about toxic stress and adverse situations many students face, a focus in buildings districtwide this year, noting that when students are acting out, they’re often struggling with something. Dealing with those issues and creating a positive culture in the building is important.

With a positive culture, the academics piece follows, Brown said. That means staff focusing on positive relationships.

“Things are moving fairly positively,” Brown said Friday morning as the smoke was clearing out of the community.

“I think the week went well,” Brown said. “We’ve got a good staff, a good team, some new faces but not as many as last year.”

Students enjoyed a dance Wednesday night, Brown said. It featured 1970s music – with clean lyrics.

“We had a great week,” said Foster Principal Luke Augsburger. “We had an open house last week, with probably more kids than I’ve seen there in the previous three years. Things are shaping up.”

He found no issues with the new schedule.

“Everybody’s doing well getting back in the swing of things,” Augsburger said.

“The first week went great,” said Oak Heights Principal Josh Dargis, who has five new teachers in the building. “I have lots of kiddos here.”

The school is doing a few new things this year to improve attendance, behavior and academic achievement.

Oak Heights is offering monthly trophies in attendance, behavior and reading, and it will choose a class of the year for the upper and lower halls, Dargis said. Oak Heights has implemented a self-manager program, like Holley’s, this year. Students who achieve the designation are eligible for extra privileges and activities.

The new schedule has had an effect on the school.

“Each day is 30 minutes shorter,” Dargis said, 15 minutes at the beginning of the day and 15 minutes at the end of the day. “I think the kids could feel that. It is a little bit quicker.”

“Our building is buzzing with positivity,” said Hawthorne Principal Barbi Riggs. Enrollment is up. “Our classes are full. Our teachers are doing what they do

best. We are just eager to teach these kids. Our new staff is eager to help. Our kids are excited. We had an amazing first week.”

The school hosted a barbecue for families to celebrate the first week of school, Riggs said, and the school had zero behavior issues.

Everyone is getting used to the new schedule, Riggs said. A couple of apologetic parents forgot about early release on Wednesday.


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