A large crowd of concerned parents and apprehensive students packed the commons area at North Clay Middle School on Monday for Step-up day.
Step-up day is a day of orientation for incoming sixth-grade students to familiarize them with the set-up of the school and other new challenges that they'll face in a new school environment.
Students were given their schedules, locker combinations and ID cards. They were sent into their homerooms where each student got a mini-orientation to different aspects of middle school.
Tours of the band area, library, technical area, physical education area and media rooms were given.
Students spent time learning how to get their lockers open using a combination lock, a first for many.
They were given lunch and instructed how to use their lunch account.
Meanwhile, parents in the common area were treated to a welcome speech from Principal Jeffrey Allen.
"This year, we're making a huge effort to involve parents," Allen said. "Parents are invited to come in and help the way they did when their children were in elementary school. In fact, we are asking that parents spend at least three hours a year at this school."
Assistant Principal Peter Kikta couldn't agree more with Allen.
"I just want to state to all the parents here that parental involvement is so important." Kikta said. "Your kid will hate to have you here. They don't want you to see them with their friends or for you to embarrass them, but we can't do the best job for your children without parental help. Kids do better in school if the parents get involved."
Communication with parents was the topic of any speech made during step-up day.
Counselor Gregory Burns, and administrative assistant Nancy McCullough also stressed communication between parents and the school as a major facilitator to a students' success. Whether by e-mailing, calling or visiting classes, communication with parents would definitely be appreciated by the teachers.
Parents brought up several items during a question-answer session. Security for the students was of primary concern.
"We are working to keep students safe," Kikta said. "One of the policies that has changed from last year is that now if you pick up a child during school, be prepared to show ID. We just can't be too careful."
Backpacks and cell phones, I-pods and game boys, all came under consideration.
"Backpacks aren't allowed in the classrooms. Basically they can be a safety hazard when they are on the floor," Allen said. "They can stay in the lockers. Cell phones are the same, in the lockers and shut off. I understand that parents want their children to have them for safety reasons, but we can't control the security of them or any other electronics."
School officials also expressed concern to parents about the possibility of problems arising from Internet usage, specifically myspace.com accounts. According to officials, many of the problems between students originated in this area last year.
"Students must be 14 years old to have a myspace.com account," Kikta said. "If we are made aware of issues on a certain account, we work in conjunction with myspace.com officials to get that account shut down. Cyber bullying, and rumors spread online are two of the newest challenges we face."
Lunch accounts were also discussed.
"For many students, this will be their first opportunity to use a credit account," Allen said. "Parents need to be aware that there are ala Carte items sold in the cafeteria. Water, juice and Gatorade, beef jerky and baked chips are just a sample. Kids aren't aware of how much they can cost, and many times use a two-week supply of lunch money in a few days by purchasing these items, for themselves and also for friends."
According to Allen, parents can contact the lunchroom and put a block on their child's account limiting what they can purchase.
"Talking to the students about these issues will make them more aware," Allen said. "They need to be responsible for keeping money in their accounts, because they are not allowed to charge any lunches at this level."
Parents and students got a good idea of what middle school is like during Step-up day.
"We want this to be a great year for all the students," Allen said. "With parent's help, together we can make this a successful school year for everyone."