Early reports from district schools indicated that 2,141 students were present for first-day rollcall. That’s down from last year’s first-day count by 29 students. The biggest decreases in student enrollment are in kindergarten, 10; first grade, 8; second grade, 13; and third grade, 11. Fifth grade held steady with no net loss from the previous year.
Of course, all elementary schools in the district, except Book Cliff in Green River, are down in total numbers because Ferron, Castle Dale, Cottonwood, Huntington, and Cleveland no longer have sixth graders who are now part of middle schools at Canyon View in Huntington and San Rafael in Ferron.
The student numbers are a little different in the Emery District secondary schools. The largest growth is in the 10th grade with 21 more students this year over the 2016-17 school year. That makes the sophomore class the largest among high school grades with 161 10th graders at Emery High and 24 at Green River High School. The district also showed overall growth in sixth grade (5), seventh grade (11), and 11th grade (3). Enrollment in eighth grade is down by three, ninth grade by one, and 12th grade by 23.
These enrollment numbers came to the district office early on the first day of school, but it is anticipated that adjustments will come after all students are registered and receive teacher assignments and class schedules. The official district count for Weighted Pupil Unit funding (WPU) will be made on Oct. 1.
“We have been very interested in enrollment numbers for some time,” Superintendent Larry W. Davis said. “With significant changes in our economy, we anticipated a decline in our enrollment. That has been the trend for the last few years.” He went on to say that the net loss of 29 students “is significant but certainly could have been worse.”
While the numbers have dropped overall, Emery High School certainly has not seen a decrease. Taking on ninth graders under the new reconfiguration has added an additional 150 students to the high school campus. Also, Emery High is adopting a new A/B block schedule which is designed to give students more academic opportunities. Principal Steven Gordon said of the new school year, “I feel that it has been a very smooth transition. Within a couple of days, students have settled in, and it feels like we have been doing the block for years.” He added that in the first few days of school as he talked with students, faculty, staff and parents he heard favorable comments, including, “I like having classes every other day…” and “Having longer classes makes the day go by faster…” He also said, “I have heard kids say they have more opportunities for elective classes with the block schedule.”
Regarding the faculty, Mr. Gordon noted, “Teachers have said that going to the new schedule is not as bad as they thought it would be. They are working on being a little more creative in their teaching styles. Little things have come up with this change, but we just deal with them, adjust, and move on.”
To make room for the ninth graders, the school has added four mobile classrooms which are located on the site of the old tennis courts west of the main building. Also, the school’s cafeteria has been rearranged to accommodate additional seating to avoid having to go to two separate lunch periods. Additional teachers have been added in full-time PE, Ferd Allred; full-time math, Curt Collard; full-time social science, Peter Moulton; full-time language arts, Shanda Winget; full-time language arts, Courtnee Justice; and half-day CTE, Dan Springer who will also be teaching at Canyon View Middle.
Although Courtnee transferred from Huntington Elementary, most of the newly added teachers at Emery High have transferred from Canyon View, leaving a number of openings at the new middle school. The district has been able to fill these by transferring several elementary teachers: Tina Allred, language arts, from Cleveland; Janet Ewell, math, from Cleveland; Haylie Horton, social science, from Cleveland; and Marty Prettyman, PE, from Castle Dale.
San Rafael Middle School Principal Doug Mecham said about changes at his school, “We have felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement among faculty and staff as well as from the students. We are experiencing a great deal of energy and fun here at San Rafael.” For the two middle schools, the transition has resulted in two of three classes moving to a new school at the same time. “Bringing in two new grades (sixth and seventh) at once has really been an adventure which we are finding to be very enjoyable,” the principal said.
At Canyon View Middle School there is also a very positive feeling about the changes. According to Principal Yvonne Jensen, “The students have adjusted to middle school and are loving it. Making this change has been good for us as faculty and staff in that it created an opportunity for us to really look at how and why we do the things we do at Canyon View.”
In addition to the physical adjustments, principals at each school are also seeing positive things in the students’ attitudes toward each other. “The younger student have brought a renewed energy and excitement to our school, and I love it,” Principal Jensen said. “Canyon View is a happy and positive place for students to learn.”
Principal Mecham agrees. “I have been impressed by the students so far. I enjoyed seeing a group of eighth graders stop what they were doing at lunch to come over and welcome a new student and then include him in their activity.” Such interaction has been common. “I have been amazed at how many students have taken other students by the arm to help them find a classroom. It is inspiring to watch a pair of boys inviting another student who was sitting alone to sit with them at lunch. These are the things which make being an educator so gratifying.”
Superintendent Davis expressed his appreciation to everyone involved in making these grade-level shifts to middle school and the high school. “This has been one of the biggest challenges ever in our school district,” he said. “It was only because of a lot of hard work and cooperation that we have been able to pull it off. We need to settle into it now, work out the bugs, and make this the best school year we can.”
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