Summer break is officially over as local schools welcomed back their students for the next year of instruction on Sept. 4.
Students said they were nervous and excited to start a new school year.
“I’m pretty excited for being a junior. I’m almost done with high school,” said Cheyenne Moog, an 11th grader at Marysville Getchell High School.
“I'm looking forward to my new teachers and seeing all my friends again,” she said.
Arlington parent Sarah Behrman said that her children were excited to get started again.
“They were up early and raring to go,” she said.
Parents also had mixed feelings about dropping off their students for another year.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet. He’s heading upstairs and is a third grader now,” said Arlington parent Stephanie Jean-Louis.
Behrman said the new year has brought changes and transition as well.
“It’s weird because my older daughter is going to Haller, so this is the first time it’s not all three of them,” she said. “Madison [Behrman’s other daughter] gets to be in fifth grade this year so it’s pretty exciting.”
To help with changes and transition the Marysville School District tried something a little new this year by having most of their secondary schools have only sixth and ninth graders for the first day.
At local middle schools upperclassmen in WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) helped the new students on the first day, and at high schools upperclassmen from the Link Crew did the same thing.
“Last year we were getting feedback from community members and students about the challenges of transitioning,” said Rod Merrell, executive director of secondary schools at Marysville School District.
“We wanted to be very intentional about what that transition looks like this year,” he said.
Merrell convinced the school board to try a day just for sixth and ninth graders this year.
“The research shows that these programs are effective in allowing sixth and ninth graders a day where they are the only ones there,” said Jason Thompson, Superintendent of the district.
“They build relationships and hopefully reduce bullying … and they get connected to a mentor,” he said.
Merrell said this could become a program they do next year as well.
“Our hope is to give an update to the board later and bring this back again next year. We were very lucky that the board was supportive of trying something a little out of the box this year,” he said.
Marysville and Arlington school officials said the first week went well.
“From my perspective the first day went very well,” said Thompson. “The schools were operating like they hadn’t missed a beat.”
Arlington Superintendent Chrys Sweeting rode one of the district’s buses with students for the first day. “We had a very exciting start for the first week,” she said. “It was very positive and staff and students were excited to be back."
District officials are also excited for new and continuing programs at their schools.
Both Marysville and Arlington will continue expanding opportunities for career and manufacturing instruction.
The Regional Apprenticeship Pathways program is hosted in Marysville but serves students across the region and offers a new pre-apprenticeship program that connects directly with regional apprenticeships.
“We’ve heard clearly from our community that they want opportunities for our students,” said Thompson.
Arlington schools are looking at similar initiatives.
“We’re looking to increase our career, vocation and STEM education,” said Sweeting, who added both middle schools will have programs this year.
“We’ll have a lot of activities going on at Haller Middle School,” she said.
“We also want to build connections with industry to help open doors for students,” she said.
Both districts are making efforts to improve inclusion as well.
“Our early learning campus has been merged into a inclusion model,” said Tracy Souza, executive director of human resources at the Marysville School District.
Pre-school students with developmental disabilities and those without disabilities are now all on the same campus.
Souza said research shows how that helps with empathy for most students and helps those with disabilities as well.
“Typical developing children get that understanding and acceptance of those who have that delay or that need specially-designed instruction,” she said.
Sweeting said that Arlington schools are working on culturally responsive practices as well.
“We want teachers to have an awareness of the variables that can affect a student’s learning, such as poverty, trauma or institutional racism,” she said.
“We want better understanding and awareness to help us understand the learning needs of students.”
Both districts also have community committees that will work on important questions for the schools.
Arlington has two committees starting up that will consider whether to increase the amount of professional development days for teachers and whether to start school later in the day to improve student outcomes.
Marysville has their Equity and Diversity, Enrollment and Demographics and Facility committees that will give recommendations to the board on a variety of issues.
More information about those committees is available at msd25.org.