Students headed back to class Monday, August 29, in Petersburg as the new school year gets underway.
Enrollment numbers have increased in two of the three schools and the district welcomes several newcomers to its faculty.
Combined enrollment at the three schools is an estimated 473 students to start off the year, up from 431 just two years ago.
Enrollment numbers can change throughout the year and are not made official until later in the fall, however it looks like the district continues to reverse a long trend of declining student counts.
At the high school enrollment has increased – at 157 to start of the year.
Enrollment is down in the middle school at 93. The middle school has started one-to-one laptops for seventh- and eighth-grade students this year available during the school day only.
Those laptops don’t go home with the seventh and eighth graders, unlike the program at the high school level.
“So we’ve gone with seventh- and eighth-graders as well as kind of train ’em up for the high school where they’ll get it in the morning after PE and they’ll take the same laptop with them all day long and they’ll check it in at the end of the day and kind of meet with some teachers,” principal Rick Dormer said. “We’ve also added in the middle school planners.”
“All students have a written planner, and that’s kind of part of the process too,” he said. “They’re great and they’re using them, checking with the teacher at the end of the day and trying to get homework written down.”
The district in the past has tried to help students making the transition from elementary school to middle school.
The high school is trying to offer a few more supporting programs for freshman this year, making the change from middle school to high school, Dormer said.
“I think if you consider our sixth-graders kind of a freshman and ninth-graders as a freshman, we see this kind of transition times are really key to support kids,” Dormer said. “We’ve focused on sixth-graders a lot because they’re younger and it is kind of a scary leap, but now we really recognize we can do more for our freshmen.”
Dormer said the supports include required planners for the freshmen and mentoring.
The upper-grades in the district will be seeing a couple new programs this year. One is Green Dot, something that Petersburg Mental Health Services has done around the greater community.
“Green Dot is a power-based violence-prevention program and so that’s bullying, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence,” school counselor Rachel Etcher said. “So we often talk about these topics but we’re not giving people the strategies and the tools to deal with … So this is giving kids the tools to be able to intervene when it’s safe to do so.”
Small signs with green dots and red dots could be going up around the school in wintertime and the program will focus on high school grades.
Another new program is Interact, which is a Rotary International program for service projects, networking and development for teens. In Petersburg it will be available for grades 8 through 12.
Enrollment looks like it’s also up at Rae C. Stedman, with 223 students expected at the start of the year up from 214 at the end of last year. The school has the staff to handle those numbers, elementary principal Teri Toland said.
“Our numbers in our classrooms are still down in 20, 22, I think 22 is our biggest class,” Toland said. “We’re so lucky to have those low numbers; we know that that really makes a difference in education.”
Toland said the school plans to start up a number of new clubs this year, from robotics, to Legos, running and yearbook.