SEASIDE —As the school bus rolled into the Seaside Heights parking lot before school Tuesday morning, Kim Meyer prepared for that familiar parental ritual: the first-day-of-school photo.
Meyer snapped a picture of her 8-year-old twin daughters, Grace and Lauren, as they emerged from the “purple route” bus, which carried dozens of new students from Cannon Beach to the Seaside elementary school.
The Seaside School Board closed Cannon Beach Elementary this year because of $1.55 million in districtwide budget cuts.
Cannon Beach students like the Meyers and their brother Lachlan, 5, now attend Seaside Heights.
On the first day, at least, the Meyer family barely noticed a difference.
“It’s really the same routine,” Kim Meyer said, noting that the school bus arrived at their Cannon Beach home at the same time as last year. “They’re excited. We just told them, ‘Change is good.’”
Charlotte Hill, a 22-year veteran of Seaside Heights and its learning center assistant, was there with Meyer to welcome the first Cannon Beach students to step off the bus and into their new school.
This year, Hill’s will be the first face these kids see each morning. She’s confident that Seaside Heights will soon feel like home for the Cannon Beach children.
“I think it’s going to go smoothly,” Hill said after shepherding her young charges into the school’s main atrium. “The first day’s the trickiest.”
Though the change of scenery was perhaps tricky for some Cannon Beach families, for Brian Taylor, walking through the halls of Seaside Heights was eerily familiar: Taylor, who now lives in Cannon Beach, attended Seaside Heights from 1985 to 1992.
Taylor, a parent of two girls, Aubrie and Lilli, who transferred from Cannon Beach to Seaside Heights, understood the rationale behind closing Cannon Beach Elementary.
“I was fine with it,” he said. “It’s still a sad deal. … It was one of those things that was always kind of in the background.”
Closing Cannon Beach Elementary jumped to the foreground after a district budget committee meeting in April, where Seaside District Superintendent Doug Dougherty proposed closing the elementary school, which had educated Cannon Beach youngsters for 100 years, to decrease the budget deficit.
The budget cuts were chalked up to the rising cost of the Public Employees Retirement System. From fiscal year 2010-11 to 2011-12, the Seaside School District’s PERS contributions jumped from $239,049 to $918,622.
For a new Seaside Heights fourth-grader like Lilli Taylor, these cuts meant new surroundings and a bit of understandable trepidation. As she held herself close to her father’s side and classmates milled about, how was Lilli Taylor feeling?
“Nervous,” she said.
“And excited, too,” offered Lilli’s mother, Kelli Truax-Taylor, who mentioned that the family had taken multiple tours of the school before Tuesday and these had helped them get acclimated.
“Once we get our routine worked out, we’ll be golden,” she said.
It will take time for everyone involved to settle into a routine, agreed Brian Sigler, who teaches physical education.
“The biggest adjustment for them will be being in a new setting,” he said.
The potential awkwardness of a new setting should be ameliorated by educators like Sigler, who knows the new students. Last year, Sigler bounced between Seaside Heights, Cannon Beach Elementary and Gearhart Elementary.
The familiar faces “will be an easier adjustment for them,” Sigler said.
Though she is in her first year as principal of Seaside Heights, Sande Brown is a familiar face to many in the district. Brown just finished a 10-year stint as the principal at Gearhart Elementary; she’s also taught in Cannon Beach and Seaside.
“I’ve been in the district for a long time,” Brown said.
This year represents both a continuation and a new start for the principal – a fact she plans to underline this school year.
“My theme for this year is knowing where we come from and focusing on why we’re here today,” Brown said.
Brown expects great things for the school year, in part because of her faith in her staff.
“They know what to do – they’re all veterans,” she said. “They just jumped in and are ready to go.”
Minutes later, the Seaside Heights gymnasium filled up, student by student, for the 8:30 a.m. assembly, the first of the new year.
Children filed in and sat down, row by row, over 300 young pupils staring up at Sande Brown, their new principal. After quieting the excited children down, Brown asked for a show of hands: how many students, teachers and staff came from Cannon Beach Elementary?
Dozens of hands shot up, rising quickly and falling just as quickly, making it impossible to tell who came from where.
They were all from Seaside Heights.
The Daily Astorian, 9.4.13. Link: http://goo.gl/YiImco