Students in Mat-Su schools return to the classroom

Shaw Elementary jazzed up for new school year
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 7:45 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2023 at 8:43 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - Students were back in the classroom in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District on Tuesday for their first day of school.

“Today is the first day of school and it’s the happiest day of the school year,” Shaw Elementary School Principal David Russell said. “The sheer excitement of kids coming back every single year, every single day, is something, if you work in an elementary school, you would never want to leave.”

Students at Shaw Elementary School ran off at parent drop-off to say hello to old classmates, as they reunited with teachers, energetic and ready for the first day.

“I’m super excited,” said Kendal Buttrey, an upcoming fourth grader. Her fellow classmate, Stella Newland is also energetic about the first day. “I’m like super duper excited and not excited but I think this summer went very fast. But I am really excited to go back to school.”

Students, Russell said, fill the halls with an infectious energy. The students are what make the school whole.

“When kids leave in the spring, it’s like a suction of all the energy that leaves, and when the kids come back it feels like school again. We are just a shell until the kids come back,” Russell said. “Just seeing kids blossom and kind of come into themselves, with confidence, it’s really probably our greatest asset we have and can offer.”

Houston High School welcomes the next generation of borough students

Houston High School welcomes the next generation of borough students

It was certainly a start to remember for students and faculty at Houston High School, as the doors to the new facility helped usher in kids for its first full academic year. The halls were bustling early Tuesday morning, as students navigated the new school, acquired their schedules, and were introduced to their new principal — Chad Martin.

“I’m really excited and I think we got the kids off to a good start this morning, so I can see that they’re excited too,” Martin said.

The new high school was built after the 2018 earthquake damaged what was Houston Middle School, forcing both middle and high school students to operate out of the former Houston High School building for the last five years. The district chose to designate the still-functional high school building as its new middle school and build the new high school from the ground up.

The MSBSD’s associate superintendent Dr. Justin Ainsworth called the opening of the new school a “huge relief” as the old high school building was designed for 500 students with 800 students using the facility after the earthquake.

“In the end, I think the staff and the community and the students were just super flexible,” Ainsworth said. “This community should be really proud of this building.”

The fall start to the new academic year, however, is not the first time the new high school has opened its doors. Back in March, the district welcomed students to their new home with only two months remaining in the 2022-23 school year to give seniors — who had spent their entire high school career in the interim Houston Jr./Sr. High School — a chance to experience the new school.

“Everybody was on the same page and pushed really hard to make sure this was open for those kids,” Ainsworth said. <9 38> “It certainly would have been easier to wait until the summer to have everything ready, but we felt it was important to make sure those kids finish their senior year in this building.”

The new school has a number of Career and Technical Education (CTE) resources, including woodshop, welding, small engines, medical tech, and culinary arts.