Fort Dodge Community School District and St. Edmond Catholic School both started their 2013-14 school year Tuesday.
For Fort Dodge Middle School, it was literally its first day. The $30 million project, which broke ground September 2011, was completed this summer and now open.
"We're a bit nervous, but we're excited. It's going to be a lot of fun," said Ed Birnbaum, FDMS principal. "The staff has done a great job coming in. They've got their rooms ready to go. Our custodial staff and maintenance crew have done a great job getting the building ready to go. Our administrative staff and secretarial staff are excited about it. Everybody's done a great job."
Surrounded by supplies, Paitton Wardell, left, watches as her mom, Kerry Wardell, puts them away in her locker at the Fort Dodge Middle School Tuesday morning. Fellow fifth-grader Alicia Vasquez puts hers away at right.
He added, "I think it's time to get the students in here and get the school year rolling."
FDMS had a shortened schedule Tuesday and will have a modified schedule this week to give students the chance to acclimate to the new facility.
"It's a big building," Birnbaum said. "We've had them in here twice. Once for the tours we had, and again for orientation last week. We've had a lot of big eyes on the fifth-graders as they come in, so we'll spend time just going through the expectations for the students."
Birnbaum is the first to serve as principal of the new middle school.
"It's an honor and a bit humbling at this point," he said.
Nancy Cross also had her first day Tuesday as administrative assistant of Feelhaver Elementary, a new position within the school district.
A native of Camanche, Cross graduated from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., with a degree in physical education and has a master's degree from Aurora University in Aurora, Ill. Cross has taught physical education and served as an assistant principal for seven years. For the last six years, she served as principal of Prairie Elementary in Naperville, Ill.
"I missed Iowa and an opportunity came up with Fort Dodge," Cross said. "I'm excited to be back. Fort Dodge, what I've felt of it so far, has been a warm and welcoming community. I really look forward to working here with the kids and the staff."
As administrative assistant, Cross will supervise daily functions at Feelhaver.
"As far as the principal part of it, Bruce Hartley (Cooper Elementary principal) will be overseeing the building with me, as well as doing staff evaluations," she said.
At Feelhaver, the day began with a flag-raising ceremony, followed by an assembly where students were welcomes, introduced to the staff and reminded of the four B's: Be Kind, Be Responsible, Be Respectful and Be Safe.
Cross said she enjoyed her first day.
"At the crosswalk, it was nice to meet and greet the parents and their children, see the smiling faces and see they're all excited to have school start again," she said.
Students at St. Edmond Catholic School showed no less eagerness for their first day of school.
"The kids are excited to be here," said Linda Mitchell, St. Edmond Elementary principal.
Because of an increase in students, a third section of kindergarten had to be added this year.
"We started the school in the summertime with having a small group of students. We didn't know what enrollment would be. And then all of a sudden we had students, and we just decided we would go back to three instead of just having two sections," Mitchell said. "We did it real quick. It happened just on Friday afternoon."
Mitchell said the increase was welcome.
"It's good to have kids in the building and providing a Catholic education for everybody," she said.
With three sections, the school will be able to offer more direct instruction, as well, Mitchell said.
"Smaller class size is always better, if you can do it," she said, "especially in kindergarten and first."
Mary Gibb, St. Edmond president, said she anticipates at good year for the school.
"We're off to a great start with the increase in our kindergarten class," she said. "We were able to add a third section of kindergarten, so that's a very positive thing. A step in the right direction for St. Edmond Catholic School."
Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said the start of the 2013-14 school year was an exciting one for the school district. According to Van Zyl, Fort Dodge schools will continue to promote positive behavior and serve as role models for not only its students but the entire community.
"This has the potential to be an outstanding year for us," Van Zyl said. "We have a lot of positive things taking place, new staff members, a new math curriculum. The focus of the start of our year, as we brought staff in, was on the positive things taking place in the district, not only making sure we're taking care of our kids academically, but being positive role models to our students."