Redhawks ready for a new school year

Crossing guard Dave Papesh stands in the center of the crosswalk on South Main Street on Wednesday, August 25, as two students rush across on their way to their first day of classes at North Tama for the 2021-2022 school year. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

North Tama students went back to school Wednesday, August 25, with

numerous possibilities awaiting them.

“I am really enjoying being up here on this stage, looking at all of you, having all of you together in one room,” Superintendent David Hill said as part of a flag raising ceremony and districtwide assembly that began at 10 a.m. in the gym.

“It has been a long time. Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year. We’ve got great things in store for you this year.”

“There are so many possibilities being a pre-K through 12 building under one roof,” elementary principal Susan Johnson said during her remarks.

One of those possibilities was the chance for parents and guardians to take back-to-school photos in front of the school using a new, social media-friendly display.

Athletic Director Secretary Patty Calderwood (right) assists a student with his class schedule just outside the doors to North Tama High School on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 25. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Just outside the school building’s main entrance the phrase ‘Welcome Back Redhawks’ was spelled out using large black and red cardboard letters. Cardboard balloons and stars completed the display.

Crossing guard Dave Papesh, 69, arrived ahead of the morning rush and walked past the display — red stop sign in hand — on his way to Sixth and South Main streets where he safely ushers North Tama students across the busy intersection every school year.

Oh, yeah, kind of,” Papesh said with a smile when asked if he was ready for the first day.

Just outside the high school entrance, Athletic Director Secretary Patty Calderwood stood behind a circular table — laptop in front of her and a long line of students snaking beyond — as she helped individual students with their class schedules.

Nineteen new staff have joined the North Tama Community School District this year.

A group of siblings poses for a back-to-school photo using the new social-media friendly Redhawks display located outside North Tama Schools’ main entrance on Wednesday, August 25. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

At the elementary level, Johnson — in her third year as principal at North Tama — said six new staff members have joined her team including early childhood special education teacher Sammy Watson, special education teacher Laura Weber, first grade teacher Shanon Degener, fourth grade teacher Brenda O’Malley, sixth grade teacher Melissa Bliss, and paraeducator Kirstie Seda.

The elementary school will have two sections of every grade this year — an additional fourth grade section was added due to what looks to be a slight increase in enrollment, according to Office Associate Cindy Zimple.

The new secondary principal, Jeromiah Bliss, was introduced during the assembly by Superintendent Hill. Bliss’s brief remarks provided some insight into the kind of leader he plans to be.

“Staff and students, give each other a little grace,” Bliss said as part of his speech. “My biggest goal as principal is to make sure that we are unified — K through 12 — and we treat each other right.”

During the assembly members from the Traer American Legion Kubik-Finch Post 142 assisted with the flag ceremony

Traer American Legion member Neil O’Brien (center) is flanked by his two daughters, Liberty (left) and Ella (right) during an assembly in the gym on the first day of school at North Tama. Ella and Liberty began kindergarten this year. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Superintendent Hill spent some time during his remarks explaining new procedures for the 2021-2022 school year including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

“Every single day, the whole building will stand and put our hands on our hearts and salute our American flag. … that’s a new state law this year.”

The elementary classrooms have always done so, Hill said, but now districtwide North Tama will mark the official opening of the school day the same way.

The district is currently working to place American flags in every classroom.

“Most of our classrooms do have American flags,” Hill told the student body. “If you’re in a classroom that does not have an American flag … wherever you are, you stand where you are in your classrooms … turn your body toward the big flag pole out front of the school. You won’t be able to see the flagpole, but you’ll know what direction it is.”

North Tama fourth grade students (standing, gym floor) lead the entire student body in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as part of a districtwide assembly in the school gym on North Tama’s first day of school. North Tama began classes on Wednesday, August 25. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Members of the Traer American Legion conduct a flag raising ceremony in the North Tama gym as part of the school district’s first day of school on Wednesday, August 25. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker