Back to school for Wadena
Lee Westrum will not buy it. Wadena-Deer Creek's superintendent has been around long enough to see through the groaning some students do when their dreams of an endless summer land squarely in a place which looks suspiciously like the old alma mater.
Lee Westrum will not buy it.
Wadena-Deer Creek's superintendent has been around long enough to see through the groaning some students do when their dreams of an endless summer land squarely in a place which looks suspiciously like the old alma mater.
That "landing thud" came Tuesday in Wadena for the WDC student body. Classes at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary and Wadena-Deer Creek Junior/Senior High brought around 1,000 students streaming back through the portals of knowledge. The administration is forecasting a slightly larger enrollment in 2017-2018 but Westrum indicated it will take some adjustment time to know the school's true K-12 numbers.
"They're the same, they're ready to go, they're full of energy," Westrum said. "They like to come back to school, they're excited. You ask them and they might say they don't want to, but they like the structure, they like to get back and see their friends. For the most part they enjoy school. Whether they'll admit it or not most of them like it a lot."
After 14 weeks of home life, the faculty and students of the WDC's two schools assembled last Wednesday for an open house. Students and parents were invited to check out the district's facilities and meet teachers and administrators while at the same time taking care of last minute business prior to the first day of school.
The summer months have been a time to regroup for the WDC administration. The coming school year will see a new kindergarten teacher on staff and WDC's 86 kindergarten students divided into five sections. A half-time sixth grade teacher is moving up to full-time so the school can offer four sections of math and reading to their 95 sixth grade students.
One of the district's best known teachers, Junelle Jackson, approached Westrum during the summer and volunteered to return to the classroom full-time. Jackson announced her retirement from teaching at the end of the 2016-2017 school year after 34 years. Jackson, a 2014 winner of the Minnesota VFW K-5 Teacher of the Year Award, had planned to return this year as a substitute because of a desire to stay in touch with the kids. Jackson will teach a section of the second grade.
There will be such a thing as a "free lunch" for WDC students in December who fill out a free and reduced lunch application. "They'll get a free lunch in December whether they qualify or not," Westrum said. "We're trying to encourage people to fill out that form. Nutrition is really important for our kids as far as learning goes. There is also revenue for nutrition programs and for academic programs that are tied to free and reduced count. The more kids we can qualify we can access more revenue and grants."
Westrum said the grants and revenue could be used to help the district with being able to offer more programs or maybe hire more staff. It would also benefit the food service department, which would receive higher reimbursements rates too.
Wadena County is known to be one of the poorest in the state.
"We believe there are quite a few people out there that would qualify," Westrum said. "We want to access as many resources as we can."
While the District 2155 school board will be negotiating new staff contracts during the coming school year, the first Tuesday of November should see an important vote on increasing the operating levy and passing a building bond. District voters will asked to decide if the present operating levy of $513.29 should be increased by $350 and if the school board should be authorized to issue $5,305,000 in general obligation bonds to upgrade the elementary school.