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Enthusiasm abounds on first day

High-schoolers fill the halls on the first day of school in Pequot Lakes on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Dan Determan / Echo Journal 1 / 7
Students step off the bus on a rainy first day of school in Pequot Lakes on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Dan Determan / Echo Journal 2 / 7
The fifth-grade wing of Pequot Lakes Middle School is full of commotion on the first day of school. Dan Determan / Echo Journal 3 / 7
Jessica Eide helps her son, Owen, unpack all of his school supplies Tuesday morning, Sept. 4, in Mara Powers's grades 3-4 classroom at Crosslake Community School. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal 4 / 7
Ryder Christiansen, grade 8, exits a packed office where students are getting their schedules and locker combinations.5 / 7
Oliver Paulson sits at his desk surrounded by his parents, Christy Paulson and Matt Ratliff, and grades 3-4 teacher, Mara Powers, at Crosslake Community School on the first day of school Tuesday. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal 6 / 7
Some students were fortunate enough to receive a ride to the front entryway during the rainy first day of school at Pine River-Backus.7 / 7

Relentless rain didn't appear to dampen the enthusiasm of area students as they began the school year Tuesday, Sept. 4.

At Crosslake Community School, students sat in the commons area of their just-opened school building before being released to their classrooms at 8:15 a.m. They'd already seen the school at an open house and seemed pleased with it. In addition to several comments of "awesome," "good" and "cool" to describe their new facility, students offered the following words Tuesday when asked how they liked the new building compared to their former facility:

"A lot better."

"I like it better. It's so much bigger."

"I like it. We can learn about plants and cool things."


"It's the total opposite of horrendous."

Todd Lyscio, Crosslake Community School director, said the first day went well.

"We had a little traffic backed up this morning, due in large part I feel to the number of parents who wanted to park and walk their students in on the first day," he said in an email. "My hope is that many more parents will consider our 'express lane' drop and go between 8 and 8:10 in the morning to help ease some of the pressure in our north lot."

Lyscio said the school's enrollment is the highest ever, with 260 students Tuesday. That breaks down to 157 students in grades K-8, 88 students in the online program and 15 pre-kindergarten in person.

"We are extremely pleased with how the building is working out with the increased number of students. We, like all schools, will have some kinks to work out such as how the lunchroom flow can improve, how to best move students through the building, parent communications and other minor challenges, but overall, it was a great first day for us," Lyscio said.

At Pine River-Backus Elementary School, where a few staff members are new, Principal Rick Aulie shares in the first-day enthusiasm.

"The first day of school is always exciting," Aulie said. "PR-B Elementary had a very smooth day. Buses ran on time, schedules all gelled well, and over all things were very positive."

Positivity wasn't limited to the elementary school, as High School Principal Chris Halverson would attest.

"I felt that there was a very safe and positive energy in the building today," Halverson said. "That is led by the culture that our teachers have created and passed on to our talented PR-B students. Go Tigers!"

In Nisswa, elementary school teacher Molly Raske said: "The first day of school is always one of those exciting days that we always look so forward to! The students are ready to be back in school, the staff has worked all summer to prepare for their incoming students and having the families back is just the best feeling. Today was the best day."

Pequot Lakes High School welcomed three new teachers and five new staff members to its ranks in the new school year. They also boast some of the largest class sizes in school history.

“(It was) great first day here at Pequot,” principal Aaron Nelson said. “We have our largest numbers ever, with two classes over 150 students and all four grades with 130-plus students. … With that growth comes great opportunity, as well as some difficulty with scheduling. Our biggest class, freshmen at 162 students, will find options a little tight this fall due to classes filling because of the large numbers of students. We are happy to say that everyone had a schedule as of the first day of school and we hope every student finds their place here at PLHS.”

Pequot Lakes Middle School begins the new year after being recognized for performing in the top 5 percent of Minnesota schools in Reading MN Comprehensive Assessment for grades 5-8, a feat principal Mike O'Neil said calls for a "huge celebration."

"Pequot Middle School enters the school year with high optimism," O'Neil said. "The success of our school start is based primarily on the hard work of our office staff and 8th grade WEB leaders who have helped to assist in the transition to Middle School for our incoming 5th grade students. Our strategic use of orientations and parent/guardian information nights has us entering the school year focusing on learning."

O'Neil also said enrollment numbers for the middle-school grades continue to be strong, and administrators are eager to push students and strive to strive for excellence in the coming school year.