Summer recess

Fort Dodge Community School District students celebrated Wednesday the completion of the 2012-13 school year.

The district’s sixth-graders were the last to learn at Fair Oaks Middle School and its eighth-graders the last at Phillips Middle School. The district’s fourth-graders will become the first to learn at the new Fort Dodge Middle School in August.

A first for the FDCSD in 2012-13 was the start of the Riverside Early Learning Center. The former elementary was repurposed to become a districtwide preschool and kindergarten.

“It was wonderful,” Lis Ristau, Riverside ELC principal, said. “We have lots of tears today, because our babies are leaving us. But it was a wonderful year and I look forward to next year.”

According to Ristau, the success of Riverside ELC is owed to its staff, students and parents.

“We are truly a family here at Riverside,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s been an opportunity for the children to learn from each other, and it’s been nice having those kindergarten children be the leaders here.”

Riverside ELC celebrated with activities for its students all day, Ristau said.

Dave Keane, Fort Dodge Senior High principal, said 2012-13 was an “exceptional year” due largely to the impressive efforts of its students.

“I was really proud of the students and the manner in which they assumed some leadership and responsibility. They got engaged in the community for service projects. They organized things for their fellow students,” he said. “This was the best year I’ve ever had in terms of student leadership.”

Another success for the school is the inspiring impact of Rachel’s Challenge, Keane said.

“It inspired a lot of kids in terms of, hey, we can do something,” he said. “I think that was a big factor in terms of some of the service learning, some of the things they did for their fellow students. I think it made a big impact on the high school.”

FDSH students celebrated the end of the year with a talent show Tuesday and concluded with tests Wednesday.

Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, joined district faculty, administrators and staff in celebrating the end of another successful year.

“I think it was a great year for the district,” Van Zyl said. “I always think that any time we can have a lot of folks get together and have a celebration, and know they’ve put their best foot forward in trying to take care of our kids, it’s a fantastic year.”

He added, “That’s not to say that we can’t improve and not get better, but I think we’re making steps in the right direction.”

Students succeeded as well this year, Van Zyl said, with Rachel’s Challenge, Positive Behavior Intervention Supports and test scores.

“Our students have been involved in a lot of different things that our staff has helped encourage them in,” he said. “Not only academic success in the classroom, also some of our test scores in many areas went up and did a great job there.”

Van Zyl said he was excited about the 2013-2014 school year.

“We’ve already got a lot of things coming down the pike for us,” he said. “We have a new math adoption that will take place. Of course, we’ll have the new middle school coming online. Not to mention some new members that will be joining our team. So it looks like it’s going to be another great year.”