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The first day Back in class

Third graders Eric Hedstrom and Ariana Mastenbrook learn all about their teacher, Keith Eckoff, on their first day back at Roosevelt Elementary School. Photo by - Paula Quam1 / 2
Health and Wellness in the Detroit Lakes School District is being amped up this year, as teachers increase physical activity in the classrooms and eliminate sugary, fatty snacks. Photo by - Paula Quam2 / 2

It's a question that people have been asking each other for the past week: "Are you ready for school?"

Ready or not, it's here.

Detroit Lakes students heard that old familiar bell ring again for the first time in months yesterday, and that always brings with it a mixed bag of emotions.

Excitement, nervousness, sadness, happiness and for some, even a little dread -- but it also brings with it some change. Although there isn't a huge amount of differences in the schools compared to last year, there are a few.

Fifth-graders at Roosevelt and Rossman are forgoing the old textbooks this year for their brand new personally-issued iPads as part of the district's pilot program.

Those students will use the technology throughout the year both at school and at home for lectures, lessons and homework.

Parents have already signed consent forms to make them responsible if the iPads are lost or damaged.

Change is the name of the game for Roosevelt fifth-graders this year, as they are also missing from their old building.

They've now all made the move over to the Middle School to help alleviate space issues at Roosevelt.

"Even with them gone, we're still at 600 (students)," said Roosevelt Principal Renee Kerzman, who is celebrating the school's new distinction of being labeled a "celebration school" for being in the top 10 percent in Minnesota after testing.

"We truly do not have one classroom open here. We're full. But it's good that we're growing."

The whole district is apparently growing. "We won't have official numbers until the end of the week when the kindergarten has started, but it looks like we'll have a pretty nice increase this year," said the district's business manager, Nancy Olson.

Over at the high school, freshman orientation and speedy eight-minute classes took up the majority of the first day back as everybody got reacquainted.

"I'm actually pretty excited to be back -- it's fun to see everybody again," said junior Amber Peterman, as her friend and fellow junior Kaitlyn Stallberger added, "and it's fun to meet all the new kids too -- there are a lot of those this year."

Probably the biggest change, according to High School Principal Steve Morben, is the expansion of industrial technology.

The school, in partnership with M State and BTD, are offering a metals fabrication class.

"We've always had a wood class, but this is the first time we've had metals," said Morben. "It gives us an opportunity to prepare our kids for our community and what we need in the workforce here in our own area."

An art room was relocated and the room (which was at one time used for welding, giving it all the right infrastructure for the class) was transformed into the new metals lab.

"We're pretty excited about that down there, so hopefully it'll be a marquis piece for us," said Morben, adding that the school will be offering more advanced classes for metals in the future.

Parents and students will also notice a change this year in the school's health and wellness policies and procedures.

Where youngsters were once highly encouraged to bring healthy snacks to school, it's now more of a requirement, as sugary, fatty treats are being more or less banned -- even for those infamous birthday cupcakes many parents are used to bringing on their child's special day.

Lists of healthy snack ideas have been handed out and teachers will be incorporating more physical activity into the students' day, with extra outside play being considered a reward instead of candy and treats.

The idea is that kids will be more physically and mentally charged up to really "soak it all in" for the 20112-13 school year.