As students file back into classrooms across Grant County, they will see new faces, projects and programs. Here is a roundup of some of the changes at the five local school districts.
Prairie City School District
Prairie City School District’s enrollment numbers are up significantly, with 171 signed up for school compared to 149 at the end of last school year.
Enrollment has been on the increase the past few years.
“We broke the seams this year,” said Superintendent/Principal Casey Hallgarth.
New teachers include Jaclyn Lopez, English; Caroline Colson, moved to art; Alexandria Mauer, Japanese; and Scott Dean, social studies. Dean is also the new head football coach.
There are many new happenings at the school, including the construction of an agriculture barn near the ag building. The barn will house the students’ fair animals, including pigs, goats and chickens. Ag teacher Lindy Cruise plans to implement a course teaching artificial insemination of cattle.
Colson is instructing a new “tech team” class with Maxine Day, who is a school counselor, assisting.
The district purchased video camera equipment, a green screen and microphones, and the six students in the class will interview people for their school website, film the morning announcements and livestream activities such as sporting events and Christmas programs.
A Prairie City School strategic planning committee met on Aug. 23 to discuss the direction of the school and to create goals, including core values, a mission statement and a vision statement for the next five years surrounding facilities, curriculum, behavior, attendance and social and emotional well-being. The 15 on the committee were from diverse sectors of the community, including local business owners, ranchers, military, parents, students, school staff and clergy.
“What we are trying to accomplish here at Prairie City School District is to get back to what made this school special when they first opened the doors in the early 1900s,” Hallgarth said. “We want to get back to these roots, and having the community be a part of what makes it special.”
A new leadership team has been implemented, and Hallgarth said they are, with the help of teacher and cheerleading coach Jill Wright, changing the culture to include more school spirit.
“We’re raising the level another bar,” Hallgarth said. “We have a little buzz in the air, and things are going well.”
Grant School District No. 3
Several teachers have been welcomed at Grant School District No. 3, including Grant Union Junior-Senior High School, Humbolt Elementary School and Seneca School.
Superintendent Bret Uptmor said the beginning of the school year has started on a positive note.
“The spirit of our staff and kids is so uplifting, and I’m very proud to be a part of this education process,” he said.
Grant Union Junior-Senior High School
Grant Union Principal Ryan Gerry, who is taking on the duties of athletic director this year, announced their new staff members, including Wayne Suchorski for vocational/agriculture; Jake Lopez, computers; Allison Behrens, English; Jackie Burns, Spanish; and two teachers have moved over from Humbolt Elementary, including special education teacher Ali Abrego and PE teacher Samantha Gerry.
Art teacher Judith Collier is also teaching a new drama class.
The current enrollment at Grant Union of 274 for grades 7-12 is the highest it’s been in seven years, the principal said.
A seismic upgrade project is “99% complete,” Gerry said.
There was some damage to the gym floor during the project, which is currently being addressed, he added. Some high school games will be relocated to Humbolt Elementary School.
Construction of an automotive building was delayed over the summer, but is expected to be complete in mid-October.
Another project is the installation of new dugouts at the varsity softball field at the Seventh Street Complex. There will also be a new backstop, and the field will be reconfigured with completion expected this fall.
Humbolt Elementary School
Principal Darbie Dennison welcomed new staff, including sixth-grade teachers Andrea Ashley and Jessica Suchorski, first-grade teacher Vanessa Houpt, kindergarten teachers Sena Raschio and Jessa Bigsby and Title I instructor Regan Reneau. The school’s new custodian is Skip Ryder. Enrollment at Humbolt is picking up where it left off with 304 kindergarten through sixth-grade students.
Office manager Laurie Stinnett said they have 22 students enrolled at Seneca School.
Tina McCormick is new to the school, teaching grades 4-6. She is also the student newspaper adviser.
A weather station was purchased with money saved up by the kindergarten through sixth-grade students. Rancher Jack Southworth gave the school a change jar and matched the funds the students raised.
Students graph the weather on a daily basis and watch trends in the weather patterns, tracking barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, as well as highs and lows in temperature.
Dayville School District
Two new teachers were welcomed at Dayville School, including Tammy Hoherz, who teaches science, advanced math and yearbook, and Steven Schmidt, who teaches social studies and is a PE/health teacher. Schmidt is also the new assistant volleyball coach.
Superintendent/Principal Kathryn Hedrick said they are “days away” from receiving a matching grant for the $700,000 bond voters approved.
She said small repairs will take place during the school year and bigger jobs, such as a new roof for the gym are scheduled to be done during the summer of 2020.
Enrollment numbers were 57 for the starting day, up by 11 students since last year. Not including the preschool with seven students.
“We have a great group of kids and great staff,” Hedrick said. “I’m excited to be back.”
Long Creek School District
There are currently 39 students enrolled, including foreign exchange students: two from Spain and one student each from Germany, Georgia, Brazil, Vietnam and Thailand. There is a possibility a student from Korea will also attend Long Creek School. Long Creek’s Superintendent/Principal is Karl Coghill.
Margee Powell is a new English teacher at Long Creek School, also teaching a personal finance class that includes helping students learn to fill out tax forms. Danielle Lindbeck is the new head cook, and Morgan Dunn, a former Long Creek student, is a new special education paraprofessional. Hannah Deming teaches social studies, is a junior high teacher and also instructs a new life skills class for grades 9-12.
“She (Deming) teaches all the things they need to learn when they live away from their parents,” said office manager Jennifer Garinger, speaking of the life skills class.
Monument School District
Monument has 53 students enrolled for the start of the school year, as well as eight preschoolers.
Laura Thomas is the new superintendent/principal, Mary Cade teaches grades 2-4 and Stephanie Gilbert is the new speech and special education teacher. Treila Osborne, who has worked at the school for 18 years, is the head volleyball coach. A new HVAC heating and cooling system was installed in the elementary building over the summer.