Dear St. Vrain Valley Community,
St. Vrain students head back to school
By Amy Bounds, Staff Writer, Daily Camera
Sixth-graders had the run of the school at Erie Middle School on Tuesday for their first day, with about 92 eighth-grade mentors easing them into the world of lockers, switching classes and more freedom.
"It's a little scary, but also fun because it's a new environment," sixth-grader Jamisen Helmer said. "I'm looking forward to meeting new people."
Erie Middle is one of several St. Vrain Valley schools using an eighth-grade mentorship program called WEB (Where Everybody Belongs).
"We want to build a community of kind, compassionate students who support each other," said Erie Middle history teacher and WEB leader Tina Harris, who's also Erie's mayor. "I hope that the sixth-graders feel welcomed into middle school and are less anxious."
More than 32,000 St. Vrain Valley students are starting school this week.
Most went back Tuesday, while some middle and high schools started with only sixth- and ninth-graders to help them transition. Kindergarten and preschool students go back Thursday.
The district also has 210 new teachers — one of the largest new teacher classes in the district's history, with new positions added because of enrollment growth — and eight principals in new positions. Six of the eight are from other district schools, while two are new to the district.
At Erie Middle, both principal Kim Watry and assistant principal Ruby Bode are new this year. Watry moved here from a principal job in Oregon and previously worked as an assistant principal in St. Vrain.
"It's great to have the kids back in the building," Watry said. "They're our purpose. They give all of us energy."
On Tuesday, the 350 sixth-graders played games, took a school tour and got to know both new classmates and their eighth-grade mentors. Their mentors led the activities after handing out silly matching costume items, from oversized sunglasses to garbage-bag capes to mustaches.
Once the school year starts, the sixth-graders will continue to meet with their mentors to talk about topics such as organization and get advice on social issues.
"I want them to have people to talk to if they're scared or feel like they're not fitting in," eighth-grader Lily Kurz said. "Some of your friends can turn into different people. It's hard to make new friends. You can go from having a lot of friends to not as many."
Her best advice: "Don't be afraid to try things that not everyone is doing. Do what you want to do."