Duluth heads back to school
Thousands of Duluth Public Schools students in grades 1-12 headed back to class Tuesday. District kindergarteners’ first day is scheduled for Thursday.
DULUTH — The excitement was evident on Denise Carter’s face as she walked her kids, Auhja and Leiana, up to the front door at Myers-Wilkins Elementary. The students were less enthusiastic, but both said they felt good about heading back to school.
“Positive, right?” Carter asked. “Teachable? You feel teachable today?”
“Yes,” Leiana said matter-of-factly.
“Go in there and learn,” Carter said, smiling.
She waved at the staff inside.
“Nice to see ya’ll again,” she said. “I missed ya’ll over the summer!”
Auhja and Leiana were two of thousands of Duluth Public Schools students in grades 1-12 who headed back to class Tuesday. District kindergarteners’ first day is scheduled for Thursday. A total of 8,172 students were enrolled there on the first day of school, according to administrators there.
At Myers-Wilkins, staff stood at the entrance and high-fived and hugged students as they headed inside, warning them to avoid a small splatter of “first-day vomit” just inside the door. A student at the top of the slide in the school’s playground proudly announced to passersby that they were in third grade.
Sean Piantek, 9, said he wasn’t looking forward to anything on his first day of fourth grade there.
“He wanted a roster of all of his friends, so definitely a little nervous about who’s going to be in class,” Saraiya Piantek, Sean's mom and a community school site coordinator at Denfeld High School, said. Saraiya said she was excited for the first day at the high school.
Farther inside, administrators were sorting last-minute paperwork snafus amid the din of a new school year: a family that had recently changed addresses and found their children enrolled in two different schools, for instance, and a formerly homeschooled student who still needed to be assigned to a class.
Principal Rachel Jackson was starting her own first day of sorts, too. District administrators hired the former assistant principal at Ordean East Middle School for 10 years to head Myers-Wilkins in August.
“Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter what age they are. I will say it’s fun getting a few more hugs at the elementary level,” she said with a laugh.
A self-described “crazy animal lady,” Jackson had a small aquarium set up in the school’s main office, plus a terrarium and a second, much larger aquarium installed in her office nearby.
Jackson said she planned to visit each classroom in her new school this week and introduce herself.
“That’s my agenda for the next couple of weeks: just being in class, seeing what’s going on and building relationships,” she said. “That’s first and foremost. Before we can expect kids to learn, they need to know that we care about them.”