First to school

St. Paul Lutheran School was the first school in Fort Dodge to have its first school day of the 2013-14 year.

Students and staff celebrated Thursday with a flag raising ceremony, followed by assembling in the chapel for prayers.

“We’re pretty excited,” Robyn Kratz, seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, said. “We see good things happening here. It’s kind of a transition year, without a principal here. A couple of us are going to work together and make those day to day operations happen.”

The school begins its year without a principal. Following the retirement of Principal Gene Sommerfeld, offers were made to potential replacements but rejected, according to Jim Finnegan, school board president.

“We did several calls over the year. We did two official ones and two unofficial ones where, when we got to the point of asking them, they decided not to come because they thought their current school needed them more,” Finnegan said. “We’re still actively looking, but now’s not the best time to look because school has started and people don’t feel right leaving their school.”

Sally Kraayenbrink will serve as interim principal this year while further candidates are contacted.

“They call it a principal of record,” Finnegan said. “She’ll have office hours, come in a couple of days a week. She’ll also be able to sign state papers, stuff like that. We have two lead teachers, who take over day-to-day activities when Mrs. Kraayenbrink is not here. And also, if we have to, the pastors can make decisions like that.”

Regardless, Finnegan was optimistic about the new year.

“Everything looks pretty good,” he said. “We’re going to check and see if the kindergarten teacher needs any help because her foster grandparent comes tomorrow. She’s got kind of a full class, with 16 or 17 kids in there.”

The school’s theme this year, Kratz said, is “Our Mission is Fishin’.”

“Basically, what we want the kids to understand is that it is our job to go out and catch people and bring them into the know when we speak of Jesus and we speak of God, and let them know it’s a good place to be,” she said.

The school has 73 students this year, Finnegan said, a slight decrease.

“We lost a couple of students to moving,” he said. “We’re still over where we were a few years ago. And actually we’ve got really good members in the bottom grades, but our top two grades bring us down because they only have four or five in each one. Our lower grades are 10 or 12. As long as we keep our numbers up in the bottom grades, we’ll be having an increase next year.”

During the summer, some remodeling was done and upgrades made to the school building.

“We did air conditioners last year and the year previously we did a lot of different stuff,” Finnegan said. “We updated the flooring and the bathrooms, stuff like that. We have all the smart boards in now, and we’re trying to get our computer lab up and running.”

Kratz said she was excited to be back in the classroom, and eager to guide students through the first day.

“Even though our school is small and all the kids know each other, there’s still that little bit of an edge with nervousness and just making them feel comfortable the first day,” she said.

The Rev. Al Henderson called it a fantastic day.

“It’s always good to see the fresh-faced young children and renew relationships and see some new faces,” he said. “It’s always so good to see teachers and parents and grandparents, to get that focus again.”

Henderson, who led the opening prayers, spoke about the year’s theme while dressed in fishing garb.

“It’s always fun to get out the gear. I actually had to dust this off,” he said, holding a fishing rod. “Literally, I had to dust it off to bring it to chapel today. I did get some fishing in this summer with the grandson, but not with the flyrod.”