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Back to school

Scappoose and St. Helens students, teachers return after summer break


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Traffic slows for Scappoose middle-school students Thursday morning. School bells rang and school buses rolled this week as the Scappoose and St. Helens school districts welcomed students for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The year began with many new faces among school staff, as well as a number of teachers recalled to the classroom after being laid off two years ago due to budget cuts.

McBride Elementary School’s new assistant principal, Lisa Tyler, spoke glowingly of her reception by students and staff at the St. Helens school after the first day of school for McBride students on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

“I went around to all the classrooms and introduced myself, and then just to have people be able to say, ‘Hi, Mrs. Tyler,’ you know?” Tyler laughed. “I felt more a part of the staff by the afternoon, which was nice. The teachers here have been so welcoming, and district staff, too. It’s just been a really easy transition for me.”

St. Helens School District Superintendent Mark Davalos said he visited schools Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and was happy with what he saw.

“I saw really great learning already on day one,” Davalos said, adding, “I’m pleased. I saw a lot of really happy parents. Things looked real smooth.”

Davalos said class sizes appear to be on target at “around 30 [students] or less.”

The new principal at St. Helens High School, BG Aguirre, sounded confident heading into her first year at the top job. She served for the previous five years as one of the school’s two assistant principals.

“I think we’re going to have an awesome year,” Aguirre said Wednesday morning, after an all-school assembly welcoming students for the school year. “Actually, I know we’re going to have an awesome year. There’s a lot of work to do, but we’re up for it.”

Sauvie Island Academy Director Darla Meeuwsen said the first few days of class have been “fantastic,” adding that the school is capped at 24 students per class, making for a total of 216 students at the charter school, which is affiliated with the Scappoose School District.

“It’s exciting — this is only our third year at capacity,” Meeuwsen said. “It’s been really good. We’ve been able this year to increase [staff hours]. Our librarian is full-time this year, and we’re able to increase library and technology time for kids.”

Meeuwsen said the school also increased full time positions for math and hired a full-time counselor.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students at Sauvie Island Academy will be doing a lot of work with fish and wildlife on the island this year, Meeuwsen said: “They’ll be doing work on the north end of the island pulling invasive [plants], doing water sampling and getting baby salmon back to that end of the island.”