Back to school in Evart, Reed City
OSCEOLA COUNTY — It’s that time of year.
The fun is done.
It’s time to head back to school.
Sigh. Oh well.
Around the county, school districts have welcomed back students for the 2011-12 school years, and despite tough economic times for public education programs throughout the state, administrators and staff are looking forward to helping young people get the best education possible in preparation for later life.
There are a lot of worries.
Drooping student numbers.
Continuing budget cuts.
The unfortunate elimination of staff.
The pervasive atmosphere of “... what’s next?”
Whatever the case, educators in Evart and Reed City are looking forward to a good year.
Accentuating the positive while doing their best to eliminate the negative.
In the Evart Public Schools district, superintendent Howard Hyde is glad kids are back in the classrooms and folks can get down to the job of educating and get away from a summer of one budget crisis after another.
“We are ready to get going and I’m looking forward to seeing things get back to normal - as much as possible,” he pointed out.
“We’ve made some changes over the summer, but our goals are still the same. Whatever comes along, we’re here to give our kids the best education we can.”
While trying to anticipate students numbers, Hyde noted that it was difficult to really get a feel of what the student population would be until the school year start settled down.
“We thought we were going to have kindergarten classes with 23 or 24 students,” he noted as an example. “Instead, we have enough new students that we may need to hire a new kindergarten teacher.
“We don’t want to have overcrowding in classrooms, no matter what the economics of the situation may demand.
“On the one hand, we seem to have taken in a lot of new kids in some grade levels, while on the other hand our numbers have dropped in other areas.”
Hyde said the “numbers game” was very, very important to school districts.
It determines funding levels.
Evart planners are looking to have 980 students in their seats at the start of the school year — a loss of 29 students from last year, (the February count.)
“One of the big questions will be how the changes in our alternative education program affect student numbers,” said Hyde.
“We hope there will be a positive impact on kids and our numbers. That remains to be seen.”
Evart district Board of Education members recently approved the moving of the alternative ed program from its present home, (on Main Street), to a classroom in the middle school.
Despite the noise and bluster of the past summer - with layoffs, cuts, position eliminations and more — Hyde is hoping for a school year that offers working programs for Evart students.
“We’re certainly ready to roll,” he said.
“”I’m sure there will be some kinks that need to be ironed out as we get going, but that happens every year.
“We have made some big changes. There may be more changes to come.
“But whatever changes have taken place, or may be to come, we will do what we need to do — give our kids the best education we can.”
Reed City Area Public Schools students took their seats on Tuesday, ready for another year of hitting the books and tucking away knowledge.
Administrators and staff are expecting good things.
“As always, we are looking forward to a good year,” reported superintendent Steven Westhoff. “Everything is all set and ready to go.”
Despite an early threat of transportation program elimination, kids climbed aboard school buses Tuesday and were ferried to their respective schools.
“We have teachers in classrooms. All the materials needed are available. I’m hoping our students don’t see any substantial changes,” continued Westhoff.
“There might be a few things kids will notice, For example, there aren’t the number of para-pros in classrooms that there have been in the past.
“Truth be known, we have little change in programs although there has been a lot of cutting and elimination.
“This just goes to show once again how dedicated our team is to giving each and every student in our district a great education. We struggle with budgets and funding, but our programs move forward without an adverse affect on our kids.”
“At this stage, our class sizes are comfortable. So there we go.”
Like superintendents around the state, Westhoff is watching his numbers with great interest.
Before the school year actually started, there were indications that enrollment might actually be up a little.
“Fact of life is, until the students are sitting in their seats, we just can’t count them,” said Westhoff.
“We are speculating on about 1,530 — about 15 or 16 students up from last year.
“That will be a good thing. Encouraging.
“Still, we need wait and see.”