Summer projects wrap for beginning of school year

Elementary school teachers take work together during a pre-school year professional development session at Lenihan Intermediate School.

Thousands of Marshalltown students are about to flood back through the doors of local school buildings and principals, teachers and janitors have been working hard in preparation.

Several staff members must combine efforts so that learning can start on day one of the school year.

“We do the class list, I talk to teachers about which kids may or may not be good together, which kids need to be together,” said Anson Elementary Principal Ronnie Manis.

He said his role as principal is to make sure the background details are taken care of prior to the start of school. He said the custodians and teachers do a lot of the preparation work.

“I don’t know of any teacher that waits until the day before school starts to come to school,” he said. “They’ve all been here for weeks getting rooms ready, looking at their class list, making sure they’ve got materials for kids.”

Teachers also form groups to plan out the year and attend professional trainings to keep sharp on running the classroom and educating kids.

“We have lessons to plan,” said Anson third grade teacher Heather Pals. “The third grade team this year, we have spent about eight to 10 extra hours outside of this (training) planning the first week of school. On top of that, we’re in our rooms getting our desks and our lockers and everything ready for students to come.”

Pals said teachers couldn’t get ready for their students without the considerable work of summer custodial teams.

“We clean all the furniture, move it out of the room. If it has a carpet, we shampoo the carpet, let it dry, move the furniture back in and set up the room the way it was,” said Hoglan Elementary custodian Loma Green, who has 25 years of experience at the building and 30 years at the district.

She said a lot of work has to be done before teachers fill the rooms with posters, books, school supplies and students come in with backpacks, pencil bags, notebooks and more.

“You clean the walls and all the furniture and the lights … whiteboards, everything,” Green said. “That’s pretty much what we do all summer long, because once you get the classrooms done and the restrooms, then you have to work on the hallways.”

She said the hallways are among the last areas to be prepped because they serve as storage space for classroom furniture and equipment most of the summer.

Keeping track of the number and placement of classroom equipment is also important for custodians.

“You have to make sure you have enough chairs and students’ desks, you deliver supplies to the rooms, you check all the paper towels, toilet paper,” Green said. “You make sure the classroom is ready for the kids.”

Those kids will arrive around 8 a.m. Monday. Pals said the first day is all about setting the bar for the rest of the school year.

“We’ve been in summer mode, now it’s school mode, so just getting them back into that routine of things is important,” she said.

In her classroom, Pals said she focuses on making students aware of behavior expectations, and takes them around the school to help them get familiar with the building. She said it is important to establish a respectful atmosphere beginning the first day.

Manis said the first day is “all hands on deck” when it comes to welcoming kindergartners, many of whom are coming to full-time primary school for the first time.

“There can be a little separation anxiety there between the kids and the parents, so I’m there, the teachers are there, my counselor is down there,” he said. “Once you get past that first morning with the little ones, they’re fine.”

Freshmen entering high school and seventh graders entering Miller Middle School and fifth graders going into Lenihan Intermediate School will also acclimate to new surroundings Monday.

The district held several open house events this week to help ease the transition from summer to school. Teachers were able to meet parents and their students, and students were able to find their lockers and get to know the building.