Weather Forecast


School year kicks off across area

From left, Logan Haberman, Jack Nolan and Maxx Laxen, all Pequot Lakes sixth-graders, look over a schedule of classes on the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 2.Photo by Nancy Vogt1 / 8
Travis Wiberg, 11th grade, puts his things away in his locker during the first day of school at Pine River-Backus. Photo by Travis Grimler2 / 8
Dave Clausen, a Watch D.O.G. (Dads of Great Students), chats with Pequot Lakes sixth-graders on the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 2.Photo by Nancy Vogt3 / 8
Ceyara Brand helps friend Isabella Ebeland, both sixth graders, to organize her locker on the first day of school at Pine River-Backus. Photo by Travis Grimler4 / 8
Wyatt Bean, grade five, is the first student to get off his bus on the first day of school at Pine River-Backus. Photo by Travis Grimler.5 / 8
Buses drop students Tuesday, Sept. 2, at Pequot Lakes Middle School on the first day of school for grades 5-12 in the Pequot Lakes School District.Photo by Nancy Vogt6 / 8
Brandon Wolske, ninth grade, tries out the combination to his new locker on the first day of school at Pine River-Backus. Photo by Travis Grimler.7 / 8
Brian Lempola, a Pequot Lakes seventh-grade social studies teacher, talks to students in his first class of the day on the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 2.Photo by Nancy Vogt8 / 8

After a quiet summer, chaos returned to Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus schools Tuesday, Sept. 2, in the form of students and teachers kicking off the 2014-15 school year.

Steady lines of students streamed off buses, hallways bustled with activity as friends became reacquainted, and, as always, several students sought help opening lockers and figuring out where to go.

Then suddenly, the hallways were quiet once again as students took their places in their classrooms and teachers kicked off the school year.

Tuesday marked the first day of school for Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus (PR-B) fifth- through 12th-graders. Eagle View Elementary School conducted parent-teacher conferences Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 2-3, with the first day of school there Thursday, Sept. 4. PR-B students in grades K-4 also started Thursday.

The Pequot Lakes School District welcomes two new administrators: Melissa Hesch, principal at Eagle View; and Tracy Tschida, director of teaching and learning. Hesch succeeds Dave Endicott, who became superintendent at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Schools; and Tschida succeeds Laurie Wig, who returned to a fifth-grade position with the Brainerd School District.

New high school teachers at Pequot Lakes include: Jamison Wagner, Spanish; Angelyn Klein, English/language arts; Karen Lindstrom-Philleo and Donald Tizzano, both special education; Jason Roepke and Lucas Schmitz, both social studies; and Jeffrey Brever, math.

LaVonne Murray is the high school guidance counselor, succeeding Anna Braam.

New middle school teachers at Pequot Lakes include: Jamie Grabowska, special education; and Grace Balfanz, math.

Eagle View welcomes Kelly Jackson as a new fourth-grade teacher.

Both Pequot Lakes middle and high schools moved to a seven-period day this year, rather than six periods. The reasoning, said high school principal Chip Rankin, is to give students more opportunities to take elective classes.

"This is the time to explore," he said, noting a full-time staff member was added for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes to meet the demand for more highly skilled students.

Also new this year, Pequot Lakes will have its homecoming on a Saturday - Sept. 20 - with the hopes of gaining more community participation. A parade will be at 11 a.m., and area businesses are encouraged to participate. Tailgating festivities will start at 11:30 a.m. with the football game at 1:30 p.m.

At the middle level, fifth- and sixth-graders will again have a middle of the day recess after a several year absence. Intervention/enrichment time is built into students' schedules, as well, said principal Sue Sergent, in an effort to help students' achievement levels.

PR-B High School welcomed many new teachers following resignations and retirements at the end of the last school year.

Lee Rudebusch is filling Dick Larson's vacancy by teaching physical science, chemistry and physics. Following in Nick Bunio's footsteps, Ben Kinser is teaching band for grades five through 12.

The high school also welcomes Kristin Lindholm to teach 10th-grade English and College In Schools classes. Josh Hirschey teaches 10th-grade U.S. history and eighth-grade world geography.

Dawn Snook is teaching seventh- to 12th-grade math special education. Sarah Johnson is teaching high school English special education. Shannon Moran is a middle and high school special education teacher.

At PR-B Elementary School, Ryan Pahl is teaching physical education. April Hulke teaches second grade and Andrew Bocchi third grade.

Rachel Wheeler and Heidi O'Brien joined PR-B Early Childhood Special Education. Kim Norman teaches Early Childhood Family Education.

Crosslake Community School students started classes Tuesday, Aug. 26, and the school this year caters to students through 12th grade with an online learning high school. Stacy Bender was hired as dean of students and John Richards as learning coach, both for the online high school.

Nisswa Elementary School students started school Tuesday, Sept. 2, with a new principal - Molly Raske - and two new teachers - Lisa Miller, K-1 multiage teacher, and Rhapsody Soderberg in learning readiness.