Settling back into school

Though the official tally won't be known for a few more days, preliminary numbers for first-day enrollment saw a bit of an uptick at most Becker County schools Tuesday.

Middle School phy ed teacher Reed Hafta meets his fifth grade class in the Middle School parking lot Tuesday morning before heading to the field to play a game. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Though the official tally won’t be known for a few more days, preliminary numbers for first-day enrollment saw a bit of an uptick at most Becker County schools Tuesday.

In Detroit Lakes, the overall K-12 enrollment came in at 2,935, as compared to last year’s first-day total of 2,856.

“That’s a gain of 79 students, which is pretty good,” said Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke, adding that about half of the total could be attributed to a larger incoming kindergarten class than last spring’s outgoing senior class, and “about 40 of them are new students. We’re pretty pleased with that."

In Lake Park-Audubon, Superintendent Dale Hogie reported that enrollment at the elementary building in Audubon (K-6) was up from 379 to 391 this year, while the high school enrollment stayed stable at 316.

The opening day K-12 enrollment last year was 695, and this year’s total is 707,” he added. “This is the 5th consecutive year of enrollment increase for LPA.”


Enrollment at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth received a significant boost from the opening of its new Kick Start program, an all-day, every-day preschool for fourth graders, bringing its overall first-day enrollment up to 651 (preschool-grade 12).

That total included 279 at the elementary building in Ogema (K-4), and 324 at Waubun (grades 5-12), with another 30 enrolled in the Kick Start program and 18 Alternative Learning Center (ALC) students, according to Superintendent Lisa Weber.

At Frazee-Vergas, first-day numbers for K-12 were stable at 910, the same total recorded for the first day of 2013. This included 414 students in the high school, and 496 in the elementary. According to figures released by the district office, this reflected a gain of four elementary students, but a loss of the same number at the high school.

First-day smiles

The excitement was palpable in the school hallways Tuesday, as students got their first glimpse of new classrooms and new teachers. “The kids are excited, and the staff too,” said Rossman Elementary Principal Sandy Nelson. “There were a lot of smiling faces… everybody looks like they’re ready to go. It’s always fun to start a new year. It’s kind of a new beginning.

“We’ve had teachers in here almost since the beginning of August,” he added. “People think about this and plan for it for a long time… all that preparation has paid off.”

At Roosevelt Elementary, meanwhile, new Principal Trisha Mariotti was settling into her duties pretty comfortably.

“I was housed at this building for 16 years (first as a special education teacher, then in Reading Recovery, Title I, and first grade), so there’s definitely a comfort level,” she said. “It’s been pretty seamless overall, I think.”

Mariotti said she heard “several positive comments” about the improvements to the school parking lot (which they share with the adjacent middle school) and pickup-drop-off areas.


“It seemed to go much smoother this morning (than in previous years,” she added.

However, the real test will come Thursday, when the kindergarteners (who have been undergoing a two-day assessment process) start classes and the full K-4 student body is present for the start of the day.

“I thought for grades 1-4, it was a fantastic first day,” Mariotti said.

“Everything went pretty smoothly,” said Detroit Lakes Middle School Principal Mike Suckert. “It’s probably one of the more smooth first days we’ve had. The traffic was very reasonable, and the enhancements we did in the parking lot certainly helped. By 8:20 our building was in pretty good shape and were up and running in a good routine.”

Enrollment in the building was up in excess of 800 students, he added. “That’s more than we had forecast.

“We’ve got a lot of kids, but things have gone very smoothly this morning,” Suckert said, adding with a laugh, “We’ll see how lunch goes.”

New Detroit Lakes High School Principal Darren Wolf also reported things were going well.

“We’re just having a great day,” he said Tuesday.


The day started with the ninth graders coming into the building for a special orientation session with a group of about 20 upper classmen, who acted as mentors and showed them around to their new classes, lunchroom, etc.

“Then the rest of the students came in after lunch and we had an assembly competition between the different grade levels and the teachers,” he added.

The competition was a fun way to introduce the students to their new principal, by having them answer a series of questions that asked, “How much do you know about Mr. Wolf?”

“The Student Council came in and asked me a bunch of questions (before the competition),” Wolf said. The grade that got the most questions right won the competition.

“The seniors won,” he added.

The competition was followed by an abbreviated class schedule, where each session was reduced to 10 minutes so the students could get a feel for their new classrooms and teachers.

“We’re trying to build a culture of just being excited to be Lakers,” Wolf explained.

At the Waubun school, students in grades 5-12 were given a “welcome back talk" by their principal, Eric Martinez.


New superintendent Lisa Weber talked to the students about expecting growth from each of them.

“It matters less from where you start, what matters is that you make a commitment to attend, learn and continue to grow,” she said in her opening day remarks. “Nothing affects academic performance more than attendance. ‘Show up’ every day, all day. Then, make the commitment with your mind, body, and spirit to make a full effort, and growth will follow.”

Meanwhile, at the Ogema Elementary School, the children were greeted with a new Early Childhood addition, indoor play yard and outdoor playground equipment, according to Weber.

Students in preschool through grade 4 were assembled in the gymnasium, where their new teachers collected them and brought them to their new classrooms. Each classroom was then visited by new building principal Laurie Johnson, who greeted the students and provided them with opening day information to give them “a more personalized approach.

”All in all, Weber added, “the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District had a great first day of school!"

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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