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Back to class: Area schools will be in session after Labor Day

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Diligent students will hit the books in area school districts when school resumes next week. Following is information for the Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus school districts, who will welcome most students back Tuesday, Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day.

Pine River-Backus

Tuesday, Sept. 4, is indeed the first day of school for everyone from kindergarten to 12th grade in the Pine River-Backus School District. Only preschool students will have different start dates this year, though official start times will be different for older students.

High school students will need to be in classrooms five minutes earlier than in past years to allow for more instructional time over the span of the school year. Elementary students will start at the same time as years past.

Though last year saw big changes with the completion of a large renovation project and addition of a STEAM program in the elementary school, this year new faces are the newest addition to PR-B.

"This year we are kind of status quo," Superintendent Dave Endicott said. "We have some new teachers that have come into play. We have some excellent people coming into these programs."

New this year is Jordan Ackerman, a former Pine River student returning to teach first grade, along with special education teachers Lauren Johnson and Luke Friederich, high school science teacher Katie Just and high school business teacher Nicole Bergmann.

"In general we are excited to have our students come back," Endicott said. "We are excited to continue to get better. I think we have a really good school, but we also have room for improvement. We're going to continue to work diligently. We have a good staff started on that. We're going to have some fun and learn along the way."

Parents are invited to help coordinate the school's future when a strategic planning process gets underway. Some locals may also be selectively chosen for telephone surveys regarding school performance and taxes. Those who receive this call are encouraged to participate in the survey and make their voices heard.

Pequot Lakes

Classes in the Pequot Lakes School District begin Tuesday, Sept. 4, for all grades besides kindergarten, which will begin Thursday, Sept. 6.

A secondary open house will occur Thursday, Aug. 30, from 3:30-7 p.m. for grades 5 through 12.

The high school will welcome a large freshman class of roughly 160 students. If that number maintains, it will be the largest graduating class in school history.

Likewise, the seventh- and eighth-grade classes have more than 150 students each.

One major change is the district's Chromebook policy.

"This is the first time we are providing a device for every student in seventh through 12th grade," Superintendent Chris Lindholm said Tuesday, Aug. 28. "We are excited to get to that point where we finally have saturation for every kid to have a device for learning. We unpacked 900 of them yesterday, and we will roll them out to students during the second week of school if all goes as planned."

Previously, the district provided students an opportunity to buy Chromebooks, with the district subsidizing that cost "a bit." Now, the district owns the devices and every student will have one.

Another change to the district is a newly approved English-language arts curriculum for grades K through 6, which features additional materials and touch-screen technology in English-language arts classrooms. Teachers will have "multiple rounds" of training on the new curriculum and technology throughout the year to implement the curriculum as best as possible.

Lindholm also said there are between five and 10 new staff members in the classrooms this fall, including a few long-term substitute teachers.

"The great news is that we have no turnover in our principals and admin team," Lindholm said. "There is good stability there."