Math teacher Lisa Lorenz uses an overhead projector to go through math problems with her seventh-grade class on the first day of school Wednesday at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Photo by John F. Russell

Math teacher Lisa Lorenz uses an overhead projector to go through math problems with her seventh-grade class on the first day of school Wednesday at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Steamboat schools begin classes; district sees increased enrollment numbers

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— The first day at Steamboat Springs Middle School was a success for Will McConnell.

“I kind of just feel bigger,” Will said as the day came to a close. “It’s a whole new thing, definitely a big step up from elementary.”

It wasn’t like that all day. Before the day started, Will said he was worried about getting picked on by eighth-graders. And fellow sixth-grader McKenyon King said he was nervous, even a little scared, that the teachers might be mean.

“But it wasn’t so bad,” he said.

The 2010-11 school year started Wednesday for the Steamboat Springs School District.

Several of the sixth-graders acknowledged that having lockers for the first time and navigating a new school to multiple classrooms made things a bit confusing. And it didn’t help, they said, that they now were the youngest in school instead of the oldest.

“You go from the top to the bottom,” Will said. “You step down instead of stepping up.”

Despite their fears, Will, Mc­­Kenyon and sixth-grader Maura Glynn said they would report to their parents that it was a good day.

They said their transition was eased in part by the school hosting the students Monday and Tuesday to go over schedules and practice opening their lockers.

Principal Tim Bishop said some students entering sixth grade experience anxiety. He said this year parents were encouraged to bring their children to school for registration. In addition to filling out paperwork, Bishop said it allowed students a dry run before the first day.

“That helped a lot,” Will, Mc­­Kenyon and Maura said, almost in unison, nodding their heads.

Bishop estimated that a majority of the sixth-graders and about 80 percent of students in all grades attended the registration sessions.

“This was the smoothest opening day because of that,” he said.

Bishop said it was a “phenomenal” first day. The nearly 30-year-old school got new carpet — “It’s all uniform and even now. In the past, there were different patches and vintages” — fresh paint in the hallways and gymnasium, and new equipment in the eighth-grade science labs.

Bishop said he was surprised by one thing. He said the middle school’s enrollment as of the first day was 523, which surpassed last year’s Oct. 1 pupil count of 495 students. The first-day enrollment is very preliminary, Bishop said, and didn’t account for last year’s students who didn’t return to school Monday.

“I was shocked,” he said. “We’ve never had that many since I’ve been here. I’m kind of surprised with the economy. I thought we’d take a dip to be honest with you. I thought families would be taking their kids out of town.”

It was the same story Wednes­day at every Steamboat school — projected enrollment was up across the board.

The district initially had projected that enrollment wouldn’t increase in 2010-11. Superinten­dent Shalee Cunningham said it’s still too early to determine whether the district’s enrollment actually has increased.

“I know that our enrollment has increased by new enrollees, but we haven’t calculated what kids haven’t showed up,” she said. “There’s a variable missing here. I don’t think we have that information.”

Last year’s district enrollment was a record. Cunningham said it will take days before each school knows which students won’t return from last year.

But enrollment was the last thing on the minds of sixth-graders Wednesday.

Will, McKenyon and Maura said they were looking forward to the independence and responsibilities of being in middle school. And the three said if they needed help learning the ropes, the eighth-graders might be a good source.

“It feels weird because two years ago, I was in sixth grade — whoa!” eighth-grader Finn Dooley said during lunch. Eighth-graders “are the head of the school. We’re like the model of what everybody else is supposed to look at because we’re the head of the school.”

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