New year, new era
By JUDY SHERARD
The pace was brisk at the newly renamed Hays Middle School enrollment Thursday.
"We opened the doors at 10, and we had a line at 10 o'clock, and it's just been steady all morning," said Craig Pallister, HMS principal.
"There's a lot of kids already here. They're already starting to decorate lockers and everything."
The former Felten Middle School will be the district's sole middle school after Kennedy Middle School closed at the end of last year.
Members of the HMS leadership team, including eighth-graders Rachel Taylor and Emily Brinley, were on hand to help answer students' questions.
Elise Suarez, a seventh grader, is one of the students making the move to HMS from Kennedy.
She was feeling a little overwhelmed with the size of the new school.
"I don't really know anything," she said. "I'm lost."
Her father Joshua Suarez reminded her she had a map of the school to help navigate the halls.
"I know some people here who used to go to school in my elementary (school), and some from Kennedy," Elise said.
The Suarez family lives in La Crosse, but Elise started school in Hays and returned to the district even after an out-of-state move.
When the Suarez family moved back to Kansas, they bought a home in La Crosse, but Hays remained their choice for school.
"I commute to Hays every day for work," Joshua Suarez said.
Kathy Satomi's daughter Kayla attended Felten Middle School last year.
"There won't be as many changes for her as there will be for some others," Kathy Satomi said.
Enrolling online goes quickly, she said.
"It carries information over from the previous year, so instead of entering it all or writing it all on paper, you can just put in dates and make changes."
Pallister has estimated that HMS enrollment will be about 600 students.
However, about eight students that weren't enrolled anywhere in the district had enrolled at the school by noon.
"That's exciting. We don't know where our numbers will be," he said.
In May, USD 489 administrators projected total enrollment for the 2012-13 school year to be 2,807, compared to 2,916 in 2011-12. The district expected a loss of 109 students in part because Kennedy closed. Those students are expected to attend Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior High.
"That's our best guess for now," Will Roth, superintendent, said of numbers. "We'll have a real good picture of that in about a week."
A 7,280-square-foot metal building, costing $752,600, was added on the northwest corner of HMS to make room for the additional students from Kennedy.
The building includes six classrooms and two restrooms. The district received the certificate of occupancy for the building Thursday, Roth said.
The classrooms will be assigned primarily to eighth-grade teachers of core subjects.
"We're even putting kids in during (the teachers') planning periods because we get more new facilities funding for every hour there's a class out in that building," Pallister said.