‘I like plussing’: Students return to Vancouver schools

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Dozens of parents asked their children for one last photo as they headed into the Fruit Valley Community Learning Center on the first day of school Wednesday.

One last photo of clean new outfits, colorful backpacks and fresh-faced smiles as children started a new school year at the Vancouver school.

Vancouver Public Schools, Evergreen Public Schools, Battle Ground Public Schools and the La Center and Green Mountain School districts opened their doors for classes Wednesday. Ridgefield School District students returned Tuesday.

In Fruit Valley, Rosa Garcia held up her phone, grabbing a photo of her third-grade son, Alejandro Ramirez-Garcia, and his kindergartner sister, Adamaris Ramirez-Garcia.

“My goal for them is to succeed,” she said. “Make friends. Be good to other kids.”

Alejandro, meanwhile, is ready to start learning again. Math is his favorite subject, he said.

“I like plussing,” he said.

Principal Matt Fechter greeted familiar students and introduced himself to new ones, high-fiving as many as he could as the students passed.

“Welcome to your new home,” Fechter said over the intercom as class began, then shared the theme for the new school year.

“What is your why?” he asked, challenging students — even though it’s a kindergarten through fifth-grade school — to think ahead to high school graduation, college and future careers.

At the school’s Family-Community Resource Center, the central hub for family assistance, staff welcomed families of kindergartners to a “Boo-hoo Breakfast.” It was an opportunity for parents of first-time students, for whom the first day of school can be especially emotional, to have a bite to eat, visit with other families and hear about the resources offered by the school.

Adam Smith and Shannan Hunt’s youngest of their three boys, Arlo Smith, was among the new kindergartners.

“It’s, like, sadder than the first one,” Hunt said. “It’s the end.”

Smith, meanwhile, was glad to have the three boys back at school — and out of his hair.

“He’s rough and tumble,” he said of Arlo, predicting he and the school nurse will get to know each other well.

Smith advised parents of new students not to keep everything their students bring home. Once you’ve seen them write the letter “M,” once, you don’t need it a hundred times.

“Don’t save all their papers,” Hunt said. “Pick one thing.”

First-grade teacher Debra Richardson, meanwhile, greeted her own students to her classroom, directing them to cubby holes and starting them on drawing their favorite things on a paper puzzle piece.

“It’s such a community here,” Richardson said of the school. “It’s a safe and caring community. Kids are going to be loved and nurtured.”

The rest of Clark County’s school districts return after Labor Day. Students in the Camas School District and Woodland Public Schools return Sept. 5, Hockinson School District students return Sept. 6 and Washougal School District students return Sept. 7.