The first day of school went well in the Brainerd School District, despite a few transportation glitches and the controversy over President Barack Obama's speech to students.
A few students got on the wrong buses and after school at Brainerd High School at least seven elementary students got off the bus to switch buses and missed their bus home. The district sent a shuttle for them.
One missing kindergartner created several minutes of panic for his parents before he was found sleeping on the bus on his ride home.
"We're very pleased with the smooth opening of our schools," said Superintendent Steve Razidlo. "We had a few transportation issues as we do every year. But the mood of the children is one of excitement and enthusiasm, the mood of the staff is the same and we're looking forward to the school year."
Young students peered out from inside a Brainerd school bus Tuesday as they waited for more students to load the bus at Brainerd High School for the ride home. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Sophomores at Brainerd High School had the entire school to themselves Tuesday since juniors and seniors don't start classes until Wednesday. BHS principal Andrea Rusk said it gave the 10th-graders the opportunity to learn their way around the building and their schedules before the upperclassmen are there.
The sophomores, as well as freshmen at BHS South Campus, were the first students in the district to hear President Barack Obama's speech to the nation's students, which was videotaped and rebroadcast at the end of the school day in each classroom. This had more to do with the timing of the live speech, at the beginning of the lunch hour, rather than protests by some parents who didn't want their children viewing Obama's address, school officials said Tuesday.
Students who objected to watching the president's address were able to opt out of watching the rebroadcast. A handful of high school students, about four or five, did go to the school cafeteria where a study hall setting was made available for them, said BHS principal Andrea Rusk. Rusk said she'd received four calls from parents about Obama's speech, one against and three in support of students viewing it.
More than 20 sophomores in BHS teacher Wendy Vandeputte's pre-advanced placement English class watched Obama's speech together Tuesday. Generally, many of the students said they liked what Obama had to say to them, but felt the message - work hard and stay in school - was something they've heard from their parents and teachers many times before.
"I thought it was a good speech," said Brendan Pelkey.
"It was the same spiel my parents gave me," said Devin Lasher.
"It was really normal, the only thing that was extraordinary was that it was the president," added Elena Hirst.
"I'm not a big Obama supporter, but it was a good speech," said Riley Nelsen. "And we can move forward in our country if we all step up."
Kyra Kleckner said what struck her about Obama's speech was when he said how 20 years ago students who sat in school desks included those who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and have since changed the way we now communicate with each other.
"It made me think, what could I do, what's possible?," said Kleckner.
Donna Whalen, Forestview Middle School principal, said her fifth- through eighth-grade students would be watching Obama's speech during their Channel One time at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday. She said parents who do not want their children to watch the broadcast need to contact their child's teacher before that time.
Whalen said she's received about 15-20 calls from concerned parents since last week, about half didn't want their children watching the speech while the others wanted to know what the district planned to do. Since all students in the building watch Channel One announcements in their classrooms in the morning, it seemed a natural time to show it, Whalen said.
"We do want them to see it," said Whalen.
At Pequot Lakes Middle and High School, students will view Obama's speech at 8:35 a.m. Wednesday in their classrooms.
"With the excitement and hectic schedule of the first day of school, along with the inability to communicate with concerned parents over the holiday weekend, this option is a happy medium to a successful start of the school year," Pequot Lakes school officials said in a news release Tuesday morning.
Parents who don't want their student viewing the speech may opt out by signing and returning a note that will be sent home with students Tuesday. Students not watching Obama's speech will have the option to study in another location.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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