A welcome back and a look ahead

Steve Massey
Guest Columnist

On Monday, more than 6,200 students filled the halls and classrooms of our school district, seemingly unfazed by the two-week early start. For the first time in many years, we started before Labor Day and the state fair due to the extensive construction occurring in many of our schools. I had the great fortune to visit every school as students started their first day. I was amazed with the smiles and enthusiasm to be back to school as both students and educators greeted each other and started the journey of learning and discovery.

Exceptional learning requires talented and caring educators, dynamic leadership, parent engagement, strong business-school partnership, and deep community support. Throughout the district, skillful and credentialed teachers will engage students learning experiences throughout the school year.

The school year promises to be filled with amazing opportunities and experiences. Students will learn to read and work with numbers, learn about key events and concepts that define our history and that make up our world, consider alternative perspectives, debate contrary ideas, and collaborate to solve complex problems. Students will also learn new languages, understand different cultures, create music, act, and perform. Many students will compete in our gyms and on our fields and learn how to persevere when things get difficult while forming new friendships, some of which will last a lifetime. By the end of the year, our seniors will graduate eager and ready to attend college and pursue their careers.

While I am excited for the school year to unfold and take shape, I am equally excited about the extensive construction and remodeling taking place in many of our schools. In November 2015, the community approved a $143 million facilities improvement referendum. A community task force recognized the need and created a bold vision to create a unified secondary campus comprised of one 7th-8th grade building and a 9th through 12th grade high school. I would like to thank the community for making this investment in our schools.

Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year at the high school, we will be seeing an increase of about 500 students as ninth graders join the ranks. With the increase of students, we will also be witnessing the finished product of a new science and agriculture building this school year. Also in the works is a brand new wing of gymnasiums to house multiple physical education classes due to the increase of students. There are also various renovations being made throughout the high school to help serve our student population.

The junior high level will experience an increase of 250 students, as both Southwest and Century Junior High will combine to form the new seventh and eighth grade building. Construction is underway to provide additional classrooms and physical education space to serve this increase of students.

Many of our elementary buildings are undergoing much needed renovations, and I am excited to see the progress at Columbus, Forest View, Forest Lake and Lino Lakes this year. All other elementary buildings are in the planning stages for renovations.

I’d like to thank the community for your investment in these renovations. I am pleased to report that we remain on time and under budget as we fulfill the commitments we made to the community.

Steve Massey is the superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools.