Brandywine gearing up for new school year, enrollment expected to be on the rise

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For students of all ages, the first day of school is a mix of anticipation and excitement. New classrooms, new teachers and a new year ahead.

For teachers and administrators, the feeling is mutual.

“Oh yes, I think there are a lot of sleepless nights the night before and honestly, I think if you weren’t a good teacher, you know, you’d be sleeping like a baby,” said Karen Weimer, principal at Brandywine’s Merritt Elementary School.

Districts all over the state have been shuffling and adding new programs to appeal to more parents and students and at Merritt, where a new all-day Kindergarten program has been instituted for this year, Weimer said the interest is evident.

“(We’re) very excited about it,” she said. “Our teachers came in a couple of weeks ago and met together to plan out what they’re going to do with the schedule.”

With the full-day Kindergarten classes, teachers are planning on having “as much uninterrupted time as possible for academics,” Weimer said.

“We were able to open up another section,” she added. “So we’re very happy about that. We’re getting a lot of interest in the program.”

For parents, Weimer said the interest seems to be coming due to the convenience all-day classes have for busy working parents and a collective understanding of the importance of academics for even the youngest students.

“I think most understand the need for academics because things have changed so much,” she said.

Full-day kindergarten is just one of the new initiatives that will be in full swing this year as part of the Brandywine district.

There’s also the district’s partnership with Job Skill Technology, Inc. (JST), offering the K-12 educational program to students, which essentially opens Brandywine High School’s doors as a virtual, public high school.

At the high school, a week before school starts, principal Patrick Weckel said the staff has been plenty busy.

“Extremely hectic,” Weckel said, describing the atmosphere at the middle/high school this week. “But it’s a positive hectic. Very busy, long hours trying to get the students enrolled.”

Preliminary enrollment figures are proving to be positive so far at the middle school, high school and Merritt.

Weimer said enrollment appears to be up at Merritt Elementary School and Weckel said even with some students moving out of the district for economic reasons, he expects to see the high school stay at a stable enrollment and is hoping for increased enrollment at the middle school.

Strong test scores and new programs, Weckel said, are only adding to the “Brandywine buzz.”

“I think (parents) are seeing our scores (on the Michigan Merit Exam). At the high school we’re taking in double digit increases,” he said.

Brandywine High School boasted a 100 percent graduation rate last year.

While the district is abuzz about the new year, administrators aren’t shying away from the challenges they could face when it comes to state funding decreases.

“How to do more with less,” Weckel said. “The challenges are to increase our student achievement.”

In some areas, that means finding a way to do so without a lot of help from the state. Weckel said though there are some programs that he expects to take off this year, including a new foreign language arts program, others are still lacking, such as the news broadcasting class.

“For instance, we need books but there wasn’t room in the budget,” Weckel said, adding that school officials will have to figure out others means of materials.

Open houses and orientations are still to come, when teachers and parents will go over the vital information for the school year and talk about student expectations.

“I think it sets a nice tone for the year,” Weimer said.

A tone for the parents, the students and the teachers themselves.

“To me it’s like a new job every year,” Weimer said. “It’s a new beginning. It’s very exciting.”

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