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An ending and a beginning

After a year's worth of assignments, tests and activities, students will be racing out the doors this week for that much-anticipated time of year -- summer.

Instead of a classroom, there will be the local beach. Instead of cafeteria food there will be barbeques and ice cream. Instead of school buses, there will be boats and bicycles. And for the graduating seniors, summer will mark the next chapter of their lives.

The end of the school year also marks the end of the familiar since District 833 will be undergoing a series of changes next year.

"It's been a very busy year; It's been a year where we're getting ready for big significant changes for next fall," superintendent Tom Nelson said. "Will there be a few headaches this fall? Absolutely, but everything has gone relatively smooth."

Nelson said he has had some worries about changing too much next year, but he is pleased with how cooperative the community and staff have been in regards to all of the changes they must face in the coming year.

"At some point you can overload people, and I've worried about that with all the changes," he said. "Have we reached the boiling point here? People need a chance to catch their breath once and a while.

"But I have all the confidence in the world that next year will be extremely successful."

Among the changes for next fall are new boundary lines, a transition from a junior high system to a middle school system and a new superintendent.

"It's been a terrific opportunity for me, but you kind of know when it's time to step back," Nelson said. "It's a good time for somebody else to take over."

One of the most significant changes facing the community in the fall will be the unveiling and opening of East Ridge High School.

"We are always pleased to learn of their excitement, enthusiasm and energy toward enrolling, participating on teams or activities and most importantly, discussing our educational vision/philosophy," ERHS principal Aaron Harper said. "On the contrary, I realize that there are others who are anxious or fearful for East Ridge to open."

Harper and his staff of teachers and administrators are hurriedly working to put the finishing touches on the school so that when it comes time to open the doors, they are ready for it.

"My mind is racing," Harper said "I keep telling myself there is so much to do and little time to do it in.

"I am very anxious and focused on making sure the little things get accomplished and the potential bigger issues are taken care of."

Harper said he is optimistic in ERHS transitioning smoothly into the community since it is a "community of communities."

Nelson mirrors Harper's sentiments in ERHS being able to adjust smoothly into the community.

"We've all watched it being built and once it's open and the students are in the school, East Ridge is going to be just another school," he said. "The newness of something wears off in a hurry."

Nelson encourages the community to take the summer to enjoy themselves and come to terms with the changes, so that when the fall comes, everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Harper offers these words of wisdom in regards to change and adjusting to change.

"Change can force others to review practices, beliefs and reevaluate value systems -- it can be a catalyst -- good or bad -- to inspire improvement," he said. "I'm sure not everyone is ready for the change, but we must give ourselves permission to be flexible and evolving in this first year of district wide transition -- we truly have a lot going on."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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