The sounds of the cheers echoed through the Yukon High School gymnasium Monday as more than 800 employees officially began the 2018-19 school year.
The Yukon School District’s annual welcome-back breakfast drew new teachers preparing for their first day in class to at least two others who have more than four decades of teaching experience.
State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister thanked the educators for their push last year to get additional educational funding.
“You made sure you were face to face with those who represent this area at the school, and made sure they knew the impact of education from your stories,” she said.
Hofmeister also pointed out that Yukon teachers were among those who literally walked to the Capitol to get their message heard last spring.
She said that made an important difference in education.
Yukon schools are setting the tone across the state by giving teachers the day off on Nov. 6, which is election day, Hofmeister said.
“Engaging the community starts at the ballot box,” she said.
Yukon was among the first districts announcing they would close their doors on election day to give their teachers and support personnel an opportunity to vote. Other districts have said they plan to follow Yukon’s lead.
Hofmeister also praised the district’s STEM programs. She said Yukon is piloting the ICAP program, which puts the focus on science, technology, engineering and math at a much earlier grade level.
All of that work could eventually help reduce the cost of remedial classes at the college level.
She said the state spends more than $22 million each year for remediation classes for incoming college freshmen.
“We want to close that gap,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hofmeister also praised the work of the district’s support staff.
She said those who work in transportation offer students encouragement each morning on their ride to class.
She also pointed to those working in the cafeteria, who provide nutritious meals each day for students.
Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said Yukon is starting the school year with 20 new certified teaching position.
He said without the community’s support in passing bond issues, that would not be possible.
The money from the bond issues is used to complete “unsexy” projects such as purchasing new textbooks, updating the technology system, improving security at schools and dozens of other projects.
Had the bond issues not passed, Simeroth told the group, that money would have come from the district’s general fund.
“It is incredible what the community does for us. Without that, the district has to pay for everything from the general fund,” he said.
Simeroth said he is looking forward to the start of the new school year.
“I love the beginning of the school year. Just look. All of these people are happy and ready to get back to work,” Simeroth said after the breakfast.
He also pointed out that the breakfast, in itself, is motivation.
“This is where they go and know they are appreciated and loved. They can go back to their classrooms and do what they do with a good heart,” he said.
This year brings several new programs and resources, including Chromebooks, which will be provided to each student in sixth- through 12th-grade.
“It’s a fresh start every year, but it is a little fresher because we have some renewed material and resources,” Simeroth said.
Classes begin Thursday for Yukon’s almost 9,100 students.