By Travis Gulbrandson
Students were back in the halls of Vermillion High School on Friday, but they weren’t taking any classes.
Instead, they were attending an open house, which took place from 9 a.m. to noon, and found many of the incoming freshmen were getting tours of the building from upperclassmen, as well as asking questions and figuring out just how to get their lockers open.
“It pretty much gives them an overview of the school, and makes it a little more comfortable for them when they have to come that first day,” explained principal Curt Cameron. “Also, it gives them the opportunity to meet some of the upperclassmen.”
The tours were given by members of the student council and the National Honor Society, among others.
The open house allows “the freshmen to come to school knowing more people and feeling more comfortable adapting to high school life,” said student body president Josie Huber, who spent the morning answering questions about the school’s various clubs.
“It’s going good,” said Maddie Mockler, a sophomore acting as one of the tour guides. “They’re kind of scared, but they’re excited to be here and see everybody.”
Nicole Klemme and Amanda Finnegan were two of the incoming freshmen that came to check things out on Friday.
“We finally got our lockers open,” Klemme said after several minutes of trying.
Finnegan said that in addition to questions about policies and classes, she wanted more information about block scheduling.
“It’s kind of confusing,” she said. “I’ve never had that before.”
Huber said “being overwhelmed” is one of the primary concerns students bring to the open house.
“They want to know how hard the classes are,” she said. “A lot of kids are worried about being too overwhelmed and being too involved, but I don’t think that’s a problem. I’m involved in a lot of clubs, so I feel like being involved is a better way to help you adjust to high school.”
The open house also provides an opportunity for the students to work out any problems with their schedules, Cameron said.
“Before, the freshmen would have to come in with the upperclassmen on the same day, and it was just a deluge of kids,” he said. “Now this really helps alleviate the numbers, and it helps the administration as far as being able to give more individual guidance.”
This is the third year the open house has taken place, Cameron said.
“Prior to this, we would have the kids come in in the spring, and we would go over the curriculum,” he said. “We would have everybody in the auditorium, and we would do group tours of the building.”
Then the students would have to remember everything four months on, sometimes without success.
“As far as time-adjustment for the kids, everything stays fresh with them,” Cameron said.
Huber said she would have appreciated an open house when she was a freshman.
“I got lost my first day, so it would (have been) nice to know where my classes (were) and know my teachers,” she said.
Still, even though the open house is offered, it is not a requirement for students to attend.
“We’ll get about 70 to 80 percent of the kids to show up today,” Cameron said. “Obviously, some have vacations that their parents are on, some are working, and those types of things.”
Mockler said she was one of the students who did not attend when she was a freshman.
“All my friends went, but I missed it, and I was the only one who got lost,” she said.
At 82 students, the incoming class of freshmen is smaller than any that came before it, Cameron said.
“As of now, the high school is at the lowest number it ever has been,” he said. “I’ve been in the district now for 28 years, and we have approximately 349 students at the high school at this time. When I first came up to the high school in 1997 … we had 520-some. So, we have had a large drop in numbers.”
However, the classes in the elementary schools are growing, he said.
“In next year’s eighth grade class, I believe they have 127 kids,” he said.
But no matter the size of the class, Cameron said the open house helps the students feel much more comfortable with that first day of school.
“There’s a lot of anxiety with the big move, going from eighth grade to the bottom of the food chain here, basically. Just knowing their way around the building, knowing what lunch they’re in, knowing how to get into their lockers and all those other things are just so helpful,” he said.
“It’s been very successful for us, so we will continue to do this,” he said.