Back to school

Today is the first day of school for students in Durango School District 9-R, as well for students in Ignacio and Durango’s Mountain Middle School charter school. Animas High, a charter school, and Bayfield schools started the fall term last Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

For students, parents and teachers alike, the first day of a new school year is a familiar moment made unique by the constant change of fast-growing youngsters. Every first day back carries with it the same anticipation and anxiety, while every grade and every school are different.

It is a time full of prospects for growth and learning, new friends and developing skills. But it also carries with it a certain apprehension.

For students, there is the worry about measuring up to a new year’s challenges. Those fears can center on academic, athletic or social issues, whatever the youngster perceives to be a weakness.

For young parents, there is the never-ending challenge of balancing school obligations, work or school and other parenting chores – all while trying to get some sleep. For the parents of older children, there is the poignant pride of handing their kids the car keys and knowing their days at home are numbered.

The first day of school also carries with it a renewed focus on the actual business of educating kids. Durango schools got generally positive performance evaluations with some areas of weakness, most significantly in math. In response, District 9-R is implementing a new math curriculum and will be offering extra help to sixth-graders who show poor mastery of crucial skills.

The district has also vowed not to hold back from experimenting with new approaches – or to abandon methods it finds wanting. Parents are being re-enlisted as partners in the process, while teachers and staff are being explicitly told that passion, ability and enthusiasm are expected.

That is all good stuff. But what is overwhelmingly on parents’ minds this first day of school is the safety of their children, particularly the little ones.

It is a cliché to caution drivers to be careful now that school is back in session. Most drivers are mindful of school zones, and the police certainly are. Likewise, school shootings and other violence make horrifying headlines but are extraordinarily rare. In those regards, our schools are really quite safe.

For parents of young children, however, those concerns provide an out. Worrying about such threats can be easier than admitting how hard it is to let go of that little hand.

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