First day of school

The 2014-15 school year began Wednesday for both St. Edmond Catholic School and the Fort Dodge Community School District.

According to Mary Gibb, St. Edmond president, the day was a great one.

“I have been excited about the first day of school since I was five and entered kindergarten,” she said. “I was really excited to see all the kids come back with their smiling faces, and eager to be here and learn. That’s what it’s all about.”

At the Catholic school, the morning began with a prayer service and presentation of the flags.

“Then we talked a little bit about changes in the handbook and changes to the building. Just how to treat everything with respect, because we had some very generous donors step up to make a lot of things possible this summer,” Gibb said. “And to treat each other with respect, and have a great year.”

Among the changes at St. Edmond this year, the school has implemented several new diploma programs for its high school students for various learning levels.

“We also have a different grading scale. We’re offering quite a few more college credit classes in our building, and more options for online,” Gibb said. “We’re just trying to meet everybody’s needs. We have to be realistic and know not everybody learns the same way anymore, and so we have to accommodate all learning styles here.”

Gibb anticipates that 2014-15 will be a great school year.

“We have a lot of staff buy-in in the system,” she said. “We have a lot of parish buy-in, a lot of supporter buy-in in what we’re doing here. And we have the greatest students in the city.”

Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said it was a thrilling day, too, for Fort Dodge school students and staff alike.

“It was a very exciting day for us, to have an opportunity to get the kids back in class,” he said. “We have a lot of positive things we started last year and wanted to continue doing this year.”

The district this year will continue its focus on student-centered classrooms and enhancing student performance, Van Zyl said.

“And staff members collaborating and working together, making sure they are taking a look at the data and information they have and making good informed decisions on how their students are performing, and what we can do to make those things better,” he said.

District administrators have also been conducting walkthroughs and holding conversations about instruction, which, Van Zyl said, have been beneficial.

“Some of the other things we’re doing with (Response to Intervention) or (Multi-Tiered System Supports), the intervention system many of our schools are working on, to help those kids who may be struggling and having some needs academically, those are some of the things we’ve been working on and continue to strive to get better at,” he said.

Fort Dodge elementary schools celebrated the day with flag-raising ceremonies, though some were affected by early morning rain.

“Several of them were able to get it in before the rain came,” Van Zyl said. “That’s kind of a great way to kick off the year, that they gathered around the flagpole, to get to see that we’re all one school, we’re all Dodgers, and we’re all striving for the same thing, which is to work together.”

He added, “We’re going to be spending a lot of time together over these next few months, so we want to make sure we get the year started off well.”