Sisolak welcomes Carson City students back to school

Gov. Steve Sisolak converses with second grade teacher Christina Jesse’s second-grade students at Fritsch Elementary School as he tours the school for back-to-school day.

Gov. Steve Sisolak converses with second grade teacher Christina Jesse’s second-grade students at Fritsch Elementary School as he tours the school for back-to-school day.

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Fritsch Elementary School’s school bell “Heigh-Ho” rang to welcome students back on their first day with nervous and happy students ready to enter their classrooms. The school has the ability to change its bell to a certain number of songs, and Disney was the order of the day.

Fritsch’s 2022-23 school year began bright and normal with Superintendent Andrew Feuling and Gov. Steve Sisolak making visits to its campus to say hello to staff, students and families dropping off children. Parents began showing their kids to their classroom, reinforcing their habits around their campus or getting acquainted with the new Raptor security system at the front office.

Fritsch parent Adam Heinz said it was an exciting day with a second grader and kindergartener enrolled in the school.

“I love the fact that we were able to have a great summer,” Heinz said. “There’s a lot of excitement because over the last couple of years, it feels to be more of a traditional school year where we were able to meet the teachers, go into their classrooms, and the kids are excited to be back and see some of their friends. I think there’s a lot to be thankful for.”

Joining Fritsch Monday, Feuling said the past week has been full of “new energy” that families and staff members could relate to in their own histories, making Monday’s back-to-school time a distinctive season for everyone.

“Everyone has had their first days of school while they were a student and maybe as a parent, and everybody knows the little bit of butterflies but the positive bit of energy,” Feuling said. “And I’m glad I can be a part of it.”

Feuling greeted the school’s students and their families as they dropped them off before the bell began and waited for Sisolak’s arrival. Buses pulled in and out of the parking lot. Parents took photos of or with their kids or went to find their classroom with them. It was a “normal” school day.

With 64 new teachers beginning in the CCSD this year, many of whom are retirees who agreed to help this year, Feuling said he was thankful for assistance in the teacher shortage that affects all schools nationwide.

“I think the biggest thing, and what I’m seeing, is just this return to normalcy,” he said. “We are walking in and everyone is just happy to see each other and we don’t have to worry about any of the things that we’ve had to worry about the last two years, and having that first day like that makes it all that more special. … Carson City School District rocks!”

Feuling said he looks forward to meeting with staff and community members this year about concerns or to have conversations about school district issues.

Rebecca Papez, mother of three, with one in middle school and two at Fritsch on Monday, ages 12 and 10, and Fritsch’s Parent Teacher Association president, said she also could feel the excitement Monday as she tended to her youngest, 7. Papez said her family has been attending Carson City schools ever since her children first started attending in 2015 and she has been serving the parents’ organization since 2017. The school’s ice cream social before school starts helps to encourage families to know their teachers as the new school year begins, she said.

“Getting parents involved and wanting to be invested in their children’s education is just the best,” Papez said.

Sisolak, who toured Fritsch’s classrooms and welcomed students back to class, took the opportunity to greet students in fourth-grade teacher Rachael Overstreet’s and second-grade teacher Christina Jesse’s rooms. Students asked various questions about his responsibilities as governor, his staff members and his pet Carson the tortoise.
Sisolak told the Appeal while on campus he enjoyed feeling the students’ zeal on their first day back to school.

“They’re thrilled and they’re excited, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “They have bright, energetic smiles, so I know they’re going to have a good year ahead of them. We’ve done a lot of good work with single-point entry. We’ve got free breakfast and lunch for all the kids this year, which is going to make it easier on the families.”

The state recently announced it would invest $75 million for free school meals in Nevada through the National School Lunch program operated by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Sisolak also said his administration is doing what it can to support schoolteachers and staff members and will work at the legislative level this coming year to help provide raises for educators.

He also addressed teacher and bus driver shortages, which are not just a Nevada issue but “prevalent” throughout the nation.

“Teachers are overworked and underpaid, and they have been for a long period of time,” he said. “This isn’t something new. Our parents are starting to realize they’re working so hard. I think parents realized when they were out for COVID that teachers go above and beyond, so we’ve got to do what we can to support them. They really do an incredible job.”

Looking ahead to 2022-23, Fritsch Principal Dan Brown said he also is encouraged to get past the pandemic and how COVID-19 once set the school back. He hopes to help parents and staff focus on returning students’ progress to where it should be again. The school’s administration will hold a safety night in September for parents to discuss lockdown drills with the sheriff’s and fire departments, and staff members have begun a social-emotional learning program to assist students, Brown said.

“Our theme this year is ‘How does your garden grow?’” he said. “We’re all farmers, and we want our crop to grow. We looked at our students, we’re looking at our data and how do we get them to grow. So, we spent last Wednesday looking at that, and now we’re getting rolling.”

Brown said his staff will dedicate “What I Need,” or WIN, time, to differentiate areas of academic support for students. He said he always hopes to provide a safe, respectful learning environment for the children attending his school. And this year, he only has one new staff member attending while the rest are returning.

“We’ve got a good family here,” he said. “We can pick it up where we left off last year.”


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