Thanks to the community’s investments, we started this school year with significant improvements to each of our school buildings and improved opportunities for students. The 2015 bond referendum provided $143 million for improvements and renovations to every school, including improved indoor air quality, enhanced security, and improved learning spaces. The 2018 operating referendum provides close to $5.5 million in additional operating funds. With these resources, the district has invested in 21st century learning opportunities and resources benefiting every student. 

On the first day of school, I visited every school in the district. The day starts with 80 school buses picking up students across the district. The bus drivers have a special way of greeting students and starting their day with the warmth of a caring smile. Students poured into the schools, some a bit more timid than others, and were welcomed into their classrooms by caring educators who were also a bit nervous and excited for the first day of school. Time was spent learning names and becoming acquainted with routines and expectations. Then, it was time for learning. 

Our schools are special places. They are safe, nurturing, and full of energy. A keen focus on learning always finds time to make sure that students feel connected and loved. Over the course of the next 10 months, students will deepen friendships with their peers, make new friends, and grow academically and personally. Teachers will get to know the learning needs of each of their students and find ways to challenge each one to achieve new levels of learning. 

There are many people involved in creating the school experience. The principal serves the entire school community by reaching out to families, working with staff, and connecting with students. Educators prepare dynamic and engaging lessons that challenge their students. Custodians make sure the mechanical systems work and that the building is clean and safe. The administrative assistants tend to the endless tasks it takes to run great schools. The nurse tends to the medical needs of students and comforts the ones who get sick during the day. Food service staff prepare tasty and nutritious meals. Bus drivers ensure that students get to and from school in a safe manner and that each student is greeted with a warm smile every day.

For many students, the end of the school day is the beginning of their after-school activity. Almost 65% of our high school students participate in some type of after-school activity. With over 65 different activities, sports and clubs, there are opportunities for every student to extend their learning day. Activities provide the opportunity for students to grow and learn in different ways. The lessons of teamwork, competition and overcoming adversity are all advantages of after-school activities, providing life-long lessons that build character and strength. 

There is nothing like the energy of a new school year. Over the course of this school year, we will watch our students learn and grow. In the case of our seniors, we will walk side by side with them as they prepare to take a giant leap into the world following high school.

Steve Massey is the superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools.

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