Back to school

Area students return to class this week one month after tornado

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Marshalltown High School students flooded the hallways after the first bell of the day rang out across the campus. Incoming freshmen consulted teachers and a help chart near the main entrance to find where their homeroom was, while upperclassmen greeted each other ahead of another school year.

Nearly three months of summer vacation is now over and Marshalltown students returned to class Thursday — for teachers, the return was a little sooner.

Last week opened by welcoming teachers back after the summer with the 26th Annual Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Educator Appreciation Breakfast at Marshalltown High School. The July 19 tornado dominated the discussion at that event.

“Our district serves a district population with over two-thirds of them living in homes of poverty — we learned situational poverty can swell those numbers higher,” said Marshalltown School Board president Bea Niblock. “We have a storm that has destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and moved a very large percentage of our student population into a situation of poverty.”

She said the board and administration completed a book study on students in poverty last year and learned much about how living with little money can impact students’ learning.

“What do you think will happen in your classroom when your school has it’s first mandatory tornado drill this year? Or when thunder and lightning clap outside your buildings?” Niblock said to the teachers sitting in the MHS-Community Auditorium. “Don’t think that the emotional scars will only be evident in the elementary buildings.”

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Hundreds of staff members were welcomed back to the district before the start of school Thursday. The Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce hosted teachers, administrators and staff at the 26th Annual Educator Appreciation Breakfast on Tuesday at Marshalltown High School.

Niblock said the teachers will do this year the same thing they do every year — care for students.

“I would guess that everyone in this room has personally been affected by the storm in some way as well, but it is you who will carry on with helping those individuals and others in your classrooms struggling in a myriad of ways,” she said. “You must do what you do best, love these children, provide them with a safe and supportive environment, and spread your compassion to all of them, and while you’re doing that, teach.”

Chamber Director Lynn Olberding urged the hundreds of school staff members to shop local to help businesses and the city’s economy to recover from the storm. District Superintendent Theron Schutte said he saw exemplary behavior from students, staff and others involved at Marshalltown Schools in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“It really was a beautiful site to have our people as well as buildings and grounds and custodial staff members, neighbors who simply walked by and wanted to help,” he said. “In the midst of the destruction and despair, to me, reflecting on that day as well as the few following days … I’ve never been prouder to be a Marshalltownian and never been prouder to be a Bobcat and be associated with our school community.”

Some area private schools, including St. Francis Catholic School and Marshalltown Christian School, also had staff and administrators attend the breakfast.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Students and parents stopped outside Franklin Elementary Thursday morning to take first day of school pictures and hug goodbye. Franklin is one of three district buildings to take tornado damage last month, but all three were up and running to welcome students.

A new beginning

Marshalltown students walked, biked, bused or took a car to school Thursday morning for the first time in nearly three months. Some Marshalltown High School students said they were excited for what the new year will bring.

Sophomore Jake Vaughn said he was able to see some of his friends over the summer, but he’s happy to be able to see them on a regular basis now that school is in session. He also said he’s heard sophomore year is the most difficult of high school.

Freshman Maisen Wilder said he’s much more excited than nervous to be in a new building and to begin his high school tenure.

“It feels good, I like it,” he said, comparing the building to Miller Middle School. “It feels more compact, everything’s next to each other, it’s easier to get around.”

Wilder said he is looking forward to French class.

“I get to learn a new language, and that’s cool,” he said.

Junior Vicky Tijerina said she is happy to be among the upperclassmen, but that the status comes with more responsibility.

“I have more opportunities to take dual-credit classes, but at the same time its a lot of pressure to get my life together for senior year,” she said.

Tijerina said she has a job to think about on top of her academic studies. She also said she’s most nervous about meeting new teachers.

“What are they going to be like? Are they going to be good? Are they going to be on top of the game like they expect students to be?” Tijerina said. “I’m hoping that if I’m a good student, they’re going to be a good teacher.”

Tornado damage didn’t slow down school staff at Franklin, Woodbury and Rogers elementary schools Thursday. They accepted students just like any other year, despite suffering different degrees of storm damage just over a month ago.

The school year is set to run until June 4, with June 5-7 set as potential make-up days in case weather forces cancellations.

For the full 2018-19 school year calendar, visit https://www.marshalltown.k12.ia.us/calendars/

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com