Christian County schools this week greeted roughly 15,000 students as they returned from summer break, and the first day of school isn’t as simple as opening the front doors and rolling out a welcome mat.
As it turns out, to make certain children receive a valuable education, it takes a village—or in this case, hundreds of teachers, dozens of board members, a handful of principals, seven superintendents, secretaries, librarians, nurses, cooks, custodians and more.
The Christian County Headliner News reached out to each school district—Ozark, Nixa, Billings, Chadwick, Sparta, Spokane and Clever—to learn the back-to-school responsibilities of as many employees as possible, and what it takes to ensure the upcoming year will be the best one yet.
It’s a job that’s likely taken for granted, but debatably of the utmost importance: keeping large school buildings in tip-top shape. The role of the school custodian is no easy job. They make sure hallways shine, desks are dust-free, and whiteboards are—well, white.
“Over the summer, it’s like you’re spring cleaning,” Ozark North Elementary custodian Elena Hernandez explained. “You have to get the light fixtures cleaned and changed out, wax and buff the floors, paint, clean the furniture—we even clean the wheels on the rolling chairs.”
Custodians’ work includes much more than keeping a squeaky-clean, well-lit place of learning.
“At some schools, we replace faucets and drains. We have to be a handyman, a cleaner and a mover,” Hernandez said. “We just have a lot of stuff to get done before the school year starts, so that when the teachers get here, they can do their jobs.”
Here’s hoping Christian County teachers returned to school feeling refreshed. Despite assumptions teachers receive three-month vacations, many spend the warmer months completing professional development programs, planning curriculum maps and reflecting on the previous school year. Back in the classroom, news ideas are put in action.
Chadwick math teacher Margaret Linn’s first classroom duties include rearranging desks, putting up decorations and moving stored items back into place.
“That includes everything from textbooks to paperclips,” Linn said.
She turns her attention toward paperwork next. Linn prepares course guides and “welcome letters” for each of her classes. She develops a list of class rules, procedures and expectations, so students know how to behave, as well as another list of learning objectives, so students know what information is coming next—but that’s not all.
“Each student creates a journal in my classroom. It will contain all of their notes, as well as reference sheets to look up needed information,” Linn said. “There are 11 things that must be updated and printed for each of my students to be able to use within the first two days of school, so there is quite a bit of time spent waiting at the copy machine.”
It’s tedious work, though Ozark Middle School English teacher Alexis Ennis says it’s one of her favorite times of year.
“I love walking into my classroom and thinking about how to make it feel like home for my students,” Ennis said. “I prepare by thinking about their needs and what will make them feel comfortable and excited on the first day of school and the days to come.”
Ennis also prepares by reconnecting with coworkers. She enjoys catching up on their lives and creating goals for students. Linn, however, collaborates through workshops and the internet, as she is the only person who teaches math at Chadwick High School. She also forms ideas through the education community present on social media platforms Pinterest and Instagram, while Ennis researches new books.
“I read a lot over the summer, as well, so that way in August, I can share some really great books that I think will spark my students’ interests,” Ennis said.
Sparta High School social studies teacher Michael Willis additionally noted the preparation of lesson plans for approximately the first week and a half of school. His other last-week-of-summer responsibilities included attending a board meeting, as well as creating practice plans and working on the baseball field as coach.
Ozark School Resource Officer Mark Deeds attends training opportunities throughout the summer, collaborating with other districts and their officers, to ensure his knowledge regarding mental health and school safety is where it needs to be.
“Aside from that and attending back-to-school meetings within the district, we’re just preparing for a lot of major traffic on the first few days of school and keeping kids safe—that’s what our focus always is,” Deeds said.
A recent Missouri State Highway Patrol press release reminded drivers to take extra time every morning to reach their destination as a way to remain cool and collected among busy, back-to-school traffic. It’s also important that drivers watch out for school busses and any eager children who may have darted into the roadway. Additionally, parents of driving teenagers should discuss the full attention taking the wheel requires.
MORE TO COME
It doesn’t end there. The Christian County Headliner News received so many responses regarding school employees’ back-to-school responsibilities, we needed to split this story into several large chunks. For more reading, look for the second installment in next week’s edition on Aug. 21.