Many of the students attending the first day of school at Mesa Verde Elementary face a special challenge. Not only is Aug. 8 their first day of school after summer vacation, it’s their first day of school ever. But luckily, the staff at Mesa Verde take every step they can to make entering the school system as easy as possible for first-time students.
“We spend a lot of our first day going over routines and projects to build community,” said principal Carol Tracy. “Our teachers work really hard in the first few days to build a classroom family.”
But even before the first day, Mesa Verde was busy with introductory programs. On Aug. 1, the school hosted its first ever “Kinder Kickoff” event, which allowed kindergartners to visit the campus. For an hour, they left their parents, explored the playground, library and cafeteria. According to Tracy, nearly every one of the kindergartners attended the school-readiness event, which was especially important considering roughly half of them did not go to preschool.
First through fifth graders also attended a school-readiness event on Aug. 7. The “Meet Your Teacher” day allowed students to visit their new classrooms, drop off their school supplies and set up their lunch accounts in the cafeteria.
“There can be hundreds of routines to learn at schools,” Tracy said. “These kinds of events really help with the first-day jitters. Because even through high school, there’s some first-day anxiousness for everyone.”
When approaching Mesa Verde on the first day of school, a group of firefighters from Golder Ranch Fire District are directing traffic and assisting the students across the crosswalks. Before even entering the school, in front of the office, students can find a list of every classroom with every attendee. These lists also include previews for campus clubs, including taekwondo, Amphitheater Public School programs and study groups.
Throughout the hallways of Mesa Verde, there are tables of free school supplies in case first-time students forgot any classroom necessities before coming to school. One table even offers entire backpacks, with a sign reading, “Please help yourself to a backpack if you need one.”
Once class starts, the students are greeted with a unique morning announcement. Instead of talking over the loudspeaker, Principal Tracy greets the students over a YouTube video sent to all the teachers. This way, the new students see her face and can recognize her on campus, rather than just hearing her voice.
“So there’s a very strong community feel here,” Tracy said. “Most of the staff lives in the Mesa Verde area, and over half have or had kids at Mesa Verde.”
Part of that community feel is a high teacher retention rate, according to Tracy. There is only one new teacher this school year, Mia Lawrence, who teaches the Mesa Verde REACH program: Realizing Excellence through Academic and Creative Help. While Lawrence is a new employee, she is a familiar face at the school, being a Mesa Verde parent and participating in the PTA.
Also new this year are a series of local partnerships to promote student engagement and education. This year, Mesa Verde is partnering with Saguaro National Park for a special student visit, and with Truly Nolen for a leadership essay event.
As is the trend with many schools both public and private, Mesa Verde’s curriculum this year will include more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. But even with all these changes, Mesa Verde is continuing multiple school traditions, including their Halloween carnival and Spring arts events.
“We have a lot going on this year,” Tracy said. “There’s a lot to look forward to.”