First day down: Carson students return to schools

Fremont Elementary School teacher Sarah Quisenberry leads her class inside Monday.

Fremont Elementary School teacher Sarah Quisenberry leads her class inside Monday.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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By 8 a.m. Monday, Portia and Wayne Thorley of Carson City were all smiles dropping off their youngest of four children at Fremont Elementary School. Their son Logan was starting the fourth grade.

“We did a lot of dropping off this morning,” Portia Thorley laughed.

Fremont’s students were quick to find their teachers and straightened up once the gates opened before classes. Parents gave last-minute hugs. Fremont’s staff members held signs for their new students to identify them easily and happily led them to their new classrooms to start the day.

The Thorleys said Logan, who is in the school’s occupational therapy program, has made great progress and maintained his identity with the help of Fremont’s staff.

“There are two things about Fremont,” Portia Thorley said. “I feel like all the teachers really care about all the kids. They’re really invested in helping the kids get better. And the school really works hard to incorporate the community in what they do and they’re always trying to bring the people into the family of what they do.”

Fremont Principal Jennifer Ward said her staff members came in Sunday to get their classrooms ready.

“Our traffic wasn’t too bad, it was a smooth dropoff and our staff parks off campus to let the parents come in,” she said. “They’re fantastic.”

While she said there won’t be any significant changes to curriculum, the staff will work to increase at-home parent engagement by creating prompts targeting math fluency, she said. Ward said questions will help go beyond the traditional “What was your favorite part of school?” to stimulate greater thinking from children.

“We have kids 12% of the year, and that’s an awful lot of lift for 12% of their lives,” she said.

Ward said most classes will have about 20 students this year and an important item will be attendance. Chronic absenteeism needs to improve, she said, with Fremont’s rate having varied from 20% and 31%.

“(Twenty percent) is one out of five days,” she said. “We don’t want students who are sick here, but we also don’t want the ‘I don’t feel like going to school’ sickness.”

First-grade teacher Amie Oden, getting ready to meet her own students, said she anticipated building a relationship with her children in the classroom and enjoying the 2023-24 school year.

“I love my kids,” she said with a bright smile. “First graders have so much energy and bring so much enthusiasm and excitement and creativity, and they’re so much fun.”

At Carson High School, junior Jocelyn Hagen, part of the school’s cheer team and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, said her goal has been to help welcome new students and build connections. She said she looked forward to seeing what the new school year would hold.

She said she’s considering going into the Navy when she graduates.

“I’m just going to focus on my grades and make better connections with the rest of the cheerleaders,” Hagen said. “My freshman year wasn’t really the greatest so I’m trying to make it new and different for the incoming freshmen, especially for my little sister.”

Along with teachers, social workers also will be working with the students to monitor their progress throughout the school year. Fremont’s Vasilia Rodriguez, who began in March, is eager to start her first full academic year in Carson City.

“I’m excited to get a fresh start, and I recognize some familiar faces already, so it’s really exciting to be able to do some one-on-ones, run groups and overall to run interactions (with the students),” she said.

She said watching the progress they make throughout the year makes her job worthwhile. She also said she has teachers and administration to help when she has questions. She said she’ll be planning for October’s Week of Respect, which highlights positive behaviors to help students learn about anti-bullying practices, anger management and social awareness.

“Everybody definitely wants the best for the kids,” she said.

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