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U46 says first day of school a success

Updated: September 22, 2013 6:26AM

ELGIN — School District U46 Superintendent Jose Torres likened the first day of school to “turning the switch on.”

“It’s not a dimmer. We don’t dim into school. We actually turn it on,” Torres said.

That means on Friday, not one child was transported by bus in the second-largest school district in Illinois. On Monday, 26,000 students out of a total 41,000, were transported by bus to 53 schools, he said.

Also on Friday, not one lunch was served in district schools. On Monday, 25,000 to 30,000 lunches were served at those schools, he said.

“All of that is a logistical challenge that school districts across the country routinely do pretty well — not 100 percent, but with a high degree of achievement,” Torres said.

That certainly was true of the first day of the 2013-14 school year Monday in U46, the superintendent and other district administrators shared later that night with the school board.

“Unlike other years, the ink is not even dry on the first day,” Torres said, jokingly questioning the wisdom of having a board meeting on the first day of school, when administrators made that presentation.

At the district’s elementary schools, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Instruction & Equity Steve Burger said, “The switch goes on and you walk into schools on the first day and it’s almost as if they never left. The students fall right into their routines, the teachers fall right into teaching and its normalcy for us.”

Burger and Assistant Superintendent Elementary Education Ushma Shah had visited 16 of the district’s 40 elementary schools. They watched 25 school buses roll up to Liberty Elementary School in Bartlett and flag raisings at Prairieview Elementary School in Bartlett and Huff Elementary School in Elgin, he said.

Torres also attended a “boo hoo breakfast” for emotional parents dropping off their children for kindergarten and first grade at Nature Ridge Elementary School in Bartlett, Burger said.

And they all got to see students engaged in learning, he said.

At the middle and high schools, Assistant Superintendent Secondary Education Barbara Johnson said, “It was a great day, even for the seventh graders, who were learning how to unlock their locks, and the high schoolers, learning how to navigate the hallways.”

Johnson had visited seven of the district’s 13 secondary schools on the first day, where most were talking about behavior and expectations for the school year, she said. She was looking forward to doing it all again the next day.

The last 10 days had been stressful for the district’s operations staff, given the number of projects it had taken on over the summer, according to Chief Operations Officer Jeff King. And that break was several days shorter than years past: starting on a Monday instead of a Wednesday.

But, King said, “To see a lot of smiling faces of the employees and students is why we do what we do.”

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