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School year off to ‘smooth start’

By Staff | Aug 25, 2009

For children in Cape Coral, each new school year marks a fresh beginning met with thousands of smiling faces who climb aboard hundreds of buses bound for school.
The Lee County School District opened its 2009-10 academic year Monday. While the district enrolled 79,457 students, officials are expecting the amount of students to again exceed 80,000 as the economy slowly bounces back.
As is custom on the first day of school, the superintendent and members of the school board stopped in to see the new classes of students.
Superintendent James Browder spent the morning at different schools across the county. In the Cape, he made official visits at Mariner High and Gulf Elementary.
“It has been unbelievable,” he said. “It’s like they didn’t stop, the fourth- and fifth-graders are so excited and they are already talking about learning.”
Lee County School Board Member Robert Chilmonik, who visited Cape Coral High and Ida S. Baker High, said one student was so excited the youth arrived at 6:06 a.m.
“So far, from what I can see, it looks like its been a smooth start,” he said. “The traffic was flowing nicely, the staff was motivated and ready to go, and kids were excited.”
Gulf Elementary is the largest kindergarten to fifth grade school in the Cape with 1,160 students attending on the first day.
Veteran Principal Martin Mesch retired from the school district last year, after 30 years of service as an educator, handing over the school’s head administrator position to Donnie Hopper.
Hopper said the school overall had a good start Monday.
“We are right where we want to be,” he said. “It always takes a few extra minutes to get the kids in the building, but it was a good start.”
Fourth-grade teacher Vanessa York led an activity called “It’s Nice to Know You,” where the new classmates learned about one another. Throughout the exercise the students shared information about themselves and become interconnected with yarn.
As principal of Gulf Elementary, Hopper said he wants to stress student safety and security first, and then make sure academics are improved.
“If kids are safe and having fun then teaching is easier,” he said. “It starts for me with safety and to make sure we have the most secure campus we can provide.”
Some policies at the school have changed, Hopper said, such as no longer allowing parents to enter the school to pick up their children at the end of the day. Soon security cameras will be installed throughout both campus buildings.
Hopper also said he wants to make Gulf Elementary one of the best schools in Lee County by working with students to succeed academically.
“We got kids who have high expectations of themselves,” he said.