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Classes begin for Douglas County students

Superior elementary and middle schools ban cellphones and backpacks from classrooms.

Seth Peterson gives a thumbs up as he poses for a photo on his first day of third grade outside of Great Lakes Elementary School
Seth Peterson gives a thumbs up as he poses for a photo on his first day of third grade outside of Great Lakes Elementary School in Superior on Thursday, Sept. 1. Students district-wide went back to school Thursday.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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DOUGLAS COUNTY — Students boarded buses and greeted teachers Thursday, Sept. 1, the first day of class for the 2022-23 school year.

In the Superior School District, the new year brings with it a cellphone ban for students in elementary and middle schools and restrictions on visitors at all schools.

Students at Superior elementary schools and Superior Middle School must put their cellphone away for the day in their locker. Backpacks, a convenient place to tote a phone, will also be banned in the classroom.

Paislee Rizzo smiles as she takes off her backpack
Paislee Rizzo smiles as she takes off her backpack before hanging it up on her first day of first grade at Great Lakes Elementary School in Superior on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“We want to focus on learning,” said Superior School District Administrator Amy Starzecki. “I think students, our younger students especially, struggle with the management of these devices.”

She’s seen firsthand the disruption cellphones have on both the classroom learning environment and in the halls. Students tune in to their phones in the hallways and at lunchtime.

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Great Lakes Elementary principal Ryan Haroldson talks with students as they eat breakfast
Great Lakes Elementary Principal Ryan Haroldson talks with students as they eat breakfast before the first day of school begins Thursday, Sept. 1.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I see the impact it has just socially on kids not connecting like they used to,” Starzecki said.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the district launched a stoplight system to provide a consistent practice teachers and staff could use to let students know when, and where, it was acceptable to use a cell phone. When school returned to a more regular schedule in the 2021-22 school year, the system wasn’t working.

“The cellphone just kind of had escalated to become a pretty significant distraction in our classrooms, especially at the middle school level,” Starzecki said.

In addition to a new principal, Rick Flaherty, Superior High School opened the school year with a new asset-building program for freshmen, stoplight posters aimed at keeping cellphone rules consistent and allowing hats in the hallways.

Over the summer, a group of teachers and principals met to talk through cellphone expectations. Their recommendation was to have students put it away for the day. Starzecki said the move has prompted an overwhelmingly positive response from students, parents and teachers.

Superior High School will continue to use the "stoplight" system, which allows limited cellphone usage to students during the day.

“Teachers will continue to provide expectations for how and when cellphones can be used in the classroom setting at high school,” Starzecki said.

Elisa Herubin, left, takes first day of school photos of her daughters Macee Herubin, center, and Emma Herubin outside Great Lakes Elementary School
Elisa Herubin, left, takes first day of school photos of her daughters, Macee Herubin, center, and Emma Herubin outside Great Lakes Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Visitor safety in Superior

Visitor restrictions at Superior schools will be tighter in the new school year as part of the district’s safety procedures. Families are asked to remain outside the school when dropping off and picking up students from school.

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“We’re trying to reduce the amount of traffic coming through those main offices,” Starzecki said. “It is extremely challenging for those front office secretaries to multitask to a level where they’re trying to really identify who is coming in and out of those buildings and keeping our schools safe with those protected entrances,” Starzecki said.

If parents do need to come into the building for meetings or to volunteer, they will have to sign in, sign out and show identification.

“We’ve actually had people say they are somebody that they’re not. Unfortunately, this is a step we need to take to keep our students safe,” Starzecki said.

Great Lakes Elementary principal Ryan Haroldson, center, talks to some of his students about how the morning process will work as they eat breakfast
Great Lakes Elementary Principal Ryan Haroldson, center, talks to some of his students about how the morning process will work as they eat breakfast before school Thursday, Sept. 1.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Paid lunch returns

Free lunch for all students is no longer available for the 2022-23 school year due to changes from the National School Lunch Program. The return to paid lunch affects all Douglas County schools. Parents are encouraged to fill out free and reduced lunch applications to see if they qualify for free lunch.

Maple, Superior meal prices will increase; Solon Springs freezes meal costs.

Meal prices have been set at area schools. In the Maple School District, each breakfast and lunch will cost 15 cents more than they did during the 2019-2020 school year, the last year families paid for meals.

The Solon Springs School District froze the meal cost for breakfast and lunch at 2019-20 rate.

In Superior, the cost of elementary and middle school lunches will rise by 10 cents; high school lunch prices will jump by a nickel. Superior will continue to serve free breakfast and dinner to all students.

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Maple merch

The Maple School District now offers an online school store for those seeking official Tiger gear, from T-shirts to blankets. Visit the Northwestern Tigers School Store at nwtigersschoolstore.itemorder.com/shop/home to purchase items.

The district is welcoming 178 new students who chose to open enroll for the 2022-23 school year, according to District Administrator Sara Croney.

An August back-to-school newsletter gave families a look at the Maple School Board's goals for the year: increasing student achievement; mental health support for students; continued improvement in technology; attracting and retaining high-quality instructors and staff; developing a potential plan for a possible operating referendum; and promoting student, staff and school achievement.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.