Dodgers head back to class

At Butler, the principal is focused on families

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Brothers Nick Davis, 6, front, and Lucas Davis, 7, both of Fort Dodge, make their way up the sidewalk outside of Butler Elementary School on their first day of school Tuesday morning. Nick Davis is entering kindergarten. Lucas Davis is entering first grade.

As the new school year begins, Stephanie Anderson, principal at Butler Elementary School, is focused not just on the students, but also their families.

“We are really going to work a lot on family engagement,” she said. “I am hoping to reach out to our families to help bridge what’s happening at school with what’s happening at home. We are going to be doing a lot of partnerships with families to make that happen.”

Butler, along with the other schools in the Fort Dodge Community School District, had its first day of school Tuesday.

Anderson is in her second year as principal.

She said the first day of school is special.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Robert Hoffmeier, 5, of Fort Dodge, looks for information at the front desk at Butler Elementary School on the first day of school Tuesday morning. Hoffmeier is in kindergarten.

“It’s always fun after summer to see the kids again,” Anderson said. “Seeing their face light up and being excited about being here and wanting to be here. It’s just so great to see all the smiles.”

She said it helps having a year under her belt.

“Last week we had conferences on Thursday and it was so fun because I knew kids and I knew families,” she said. “That makes it more comfortable for everybody when it’s not the new principal anymore. I am here. I have established relationships and they know everything that I am going to do is going to be best for kids.”

At Butler, Anderson oversees about 500 students, kindergarten through fourth grade, and 60 staff members.

One particular program she is pleased to have in place is a smart room.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Cindy Gomez, 10, of Fort Dodge, practices her coloring skills as she waits for class to start on the first day of school at Butler Elementary School Tuesday morning. Gomez is entering fourth grade.

Smart rooms are designed to help students improve motor skills.

“We are going to work with kids and really prepare them to build those skills and prepare them for school readiness skills,” Anderson said.

She said each class will spend about 20 minutes a day in the smart room.

“They will do everything from alligator crawls to helicopter spins,” she said. “They spend some time on the overhead ladder which is like monkey bars. Many of our kids don’t spend a lot of time climbing trees or monkey bars like we did as kids. This provides them an opportunity to do some of those things in a more structured setting.”

In the first days of school, Anderson said helping kids become comfortable is a top priority.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Emilio Cardenas, 5, of Fort Dodge, poses for a photo on his first day of kindergarten outside of Butler Elementary School Tuesday morning.

“We start the year working on building relationships and building the culture and climate within the school,” she said. “We will spend a lot of time teaching expectations, so they know exactly what’s expected of them in different areas of the school. We will do a mock dismissal, so at the end of the day it won’t be so chaotic and kids won’t know where they are going. A lot of what we do these first few days is really building relationships and helping kids know that we are here for them and we care for them. And making sure they feel safe here.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Chase Reis-Struck, 7, of Fort Dodge, digs into some blocks as he waits for school to start Tuesday morning at Butler Elementary School.