Starting at the middle |

Starting at the middle

Amanda Holt Miller
Western Garfield County Staff
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

RIFLE ” The 203 fifth-graders at Rifle Middle School spent Tuesday morning getting acquainted with their new school.

Sometimes, the difficulties of school have nothing to do with studying.

“It was really busy,” Kasey Kostelecky said of his first day in middle school. “We had to try to learn how to open the lockers. That’s kind of hard.”

Kasey and some of his peers were nervous to be the youngest kids in the school after their time at Wamsley and Highland elementary schools.

Junior Molina said he only knew a few kids in his class. He said he was nervous he wouldn’t know where to go or what his schedule was when he started school. But he’d been in and out of the building before because he had siblings who went there.

“This is all really new for me,” said Kaitlyn Giard, who is the oldest child in her family. “But I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it. My class came here for a field trip in fourth grade.”

The fifth-graders got a warm welcome, all filing into the gymnasium behind their sixth-grade cohorts to attend a beginning-of-the-year assembly. Fifth-grade teacher Landon Lundy told the sixth-graders to set a good example for the younger students. He asked questions like, “Which side of the hall do you walk on?” Some students eagerly provided the correct answer ” “right.”

Lundy also asked students to recall the names of the administrators who had just introduced themselves.

The fifth-graders weren’t the only new kids on the block. Principal Susan Birdsey and Assistant Principal Luis Camas are both new this year. Birdsey told students she was from Creed, a town so small that the collection of fifth- and sixth-graders made up the population of her old town.

“This is like a town meeting for me,” she said, eliciting laughter from the kids.

Birdsey told the students she has a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader of her own, who will join the RMS team later in the year.

“And you’ll all be very nice to them when they come, right?” she asked the crowd.

“Yes!” The students shouted.

Camas introduced himself as a New York Mets fan, born in New York City. He introduced himself in both Spanish and English and said that students speaking either language could approach him or Birdsey, as both of them are bilingual.

“It’s my goal that everything that goes out of here in English,” Birdsey said after the assembly, “also goes out of here in Spanish.”

To help achieve that goal, the school has hired a parent liaison, Lupita Pina, who has a student at the school. The liaison program at RMS is a pilot program that Theresa Hamilton, the Garfield Re-2 School District director of districtwide affairs, hopes the district will be able to get grant money for and expand to other Re-2 schools.

That’s not the end of the new-and-improved things at RMS this year. The schedule is different and students will have 30 minutes of “flex time” every Wednesday and Thursday. Birdsey said the time will be used to teach conflict mediation skills and give students time to talk to each other and with teachers.

There are nine new teachers at the school this year and RMS has a been approved to hire a resource officer ” a police officer in uniform.

Birdsey said all of the newness has made everyone seem very excited.

“The energy just incredible,” Birdsey said. “It just feels so good when you walk through the door.”

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