Tell City Schools report smooth openings

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Elementary, junior high schools get $155,500 in grants

TELL CITY - The principals of Tell City's three schools reported smooth openings to the 2008-09 school year Tuesday.

"The school day today went really well," William Tell Elementary School Principal Laura Noble said at a regular school-board meeting. "I'm not going to say it was quiet in the office, because it's never quiet in the office."

She attributed a lower-than-usual level of office activity to the scheduling of orientation for kindergartners the previous Thursday. Opening day had been their orientation day in the past, she explained, but the young students actually rode buses to and from school their first day this year.

"We wanted to comply with the law," she told the board. "I would say probably half the schools in the state comply with the law."

She explained Wednesday many kindergartners attend orientations on opening day, which could be two hours versus the six considered to be a full academic day. The orientation session was very well attended, Noble continued.

"I appreciate all the kindergarten teachers being there, because they didn't have to be, but they know the benefits of meeting the parent before the first day of school," she said.

Noble reported a $150,000 Welborn Foundation Healthy Schools Initiative grant had been approved for the elementary school and will fund "all kinds of equipment for the gym" over three years.

The school partnered with Tell City officials in the grant application, and the city also submitted its own Healthy Cities Initiative grant request. "Hopefully, they'll be hearing about that soon," she said.

In addition to fitness equipment, which will be provided in the second and third years, the grant will fund wellness-promotion efforts such as a one-mile fun run for the kids, fruits and vegetables for after-school-program snacks, health fairs for staff members and families, "just a really good step in the right direction for our school, but also for Tell City," Noble said.

Schools across the state will report enrollment numbers to the Indiana Department of Education in September, as numbers typically fluctuate the initial days of any school year. Noble said Wednesday 735 students reported to school the first day.

The Indiana Department of Education reports enrollment figures for each school in the state at its Web site, and reflects 718 students were enrolled at William Tell last year.

Tell City Junior High School Interim Principal Brad Ramsey said he couldn't take credit for how well things went the first day in his building, his second official day on the job.

Cindia Ress, Julie Bryant and Phil DeSpain were among those he credited with a smooth opening.

"We also got a grant," he boasted of $5,500 offered by the Schergens Foundation to provide reading materials.

Ramsey said after the meeting the junior-high student population stood at approximately 370 on the first day, up five from the tally reported by the state Education Department for last year.

Ramsey was moved up from the assistant-principal position to fill a void left by the June 30 resignation of Chad Schenck. The interim status was designated because of the uncertain future of the junior-high building.

Considered briefly for closure, its fate is yet to be determined by a building committee eyeing facility needs for the future. See story on Page 1 of today's issue.

High-school Principal Dale Stewart said more than 90 percent of this year's 116 freshmen and many of their parents participated in orientation activities the previous Tuesday evening.

"High school is kind of like Little League baseball and Babe Ruth baseball," he said. "Once you get to high school, a lot of parents say 'you're on your own,' so it's nice to see that many parents and that many students here last week. Of course, when you have construction and you have a little bit of a roof problem ... people panic and think you're going to have problems the first day of school. But there was absolutely no problem; everything went great."

Construction projects completed over the summer included $2 million worth of upgrades to heating-and-air systems in two parts of the high school and replacement of sidewalks near the Bryan Taylor Sports Arena, Etienne said after the meeting.

He explained during the meeting a roof leak had developed at the high school two weeks earlier, but "the roofing company has agreed to compensate us for it," he said. He was awaiting delivery of a downspout that would complete the repair.

Stewart thanked the custodial staff for their work getting the building ready.

"We still had a few guys working this morning, until about 10 o'clock," he said, "but we have a little over 500 students and had a great first day."

The DOE Web site reflects 524 students enrolled last year.