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Mooseheart Starts 2013-2014 School Year

By DARRYL MELLEMA, Associate Editor, Moose Magazine
Click Photo to Enlarge


New windows in every classroom are just one of the improvements greeting Mooseheart students as the 2013-14 school opens.



Mooseheart High School Science teacher Curt Schlinkmann instructs his students on the opening day of the 2013-14 school year.



Mooseheart High School English teacher Heidi Bolanos instructs using one of the new whiteboards on the first day of the 2013-14 school year.



The one-on-one teaching element at the school remains, demonstrated by Mooseheart High School Math teacher Leslie Yurgil on the opening day of the 2013-14 school year.


MOOSEHEART, IL, August 28 There have been many suggestions given by Mooseheart teachers on the first day of school over the years - but there has likely never been a suggestion to a student to remember to bring a sweater because it might be a little cool in the classroom.

This year marks the 59th time students have entered Mooseheart’s school building, which opened in 1954, but only the 1st time that students have walked in to an air conditioned school.

That cool air is more than just a novelty item - it is already providing benefits. Switching on the air conditioning to start this year comes at a good time - temperatures are forecast to be in the 90s most of the first week of classes.

"When you come in and the heat index is over 100 degrees, normally by the afternoon, [students would] be having trouble staying awake, their forearms would be sweaty when they’d go to write and there are so many things that go into a nice climate-controlled environment," Szymczak said.

There are 211 children at Mooseheart this year. Of these, 113 are in the high school, 44 are middle schoolers, 45 are in elementary school and a further 9 are either pre-kindergarten or non-school age.

Not all those students opened Monday in the school building. The elementary hallway of the school will not be finished until after Labor Day, so those students will spend their first week of classroom time in the campus' House of God.

"[Teachers are] planning field trips that they normally wouldn't take until April or May," Szymczak said. "No one else is taking field trips at this time of the year, so they're finding it easy to schedule those."

But the first day of school is always special at Mooseheart. Many children return home for the summer, and those homes are spread throughout the United States and Canada. Many students have not seen their classmates for weeks.

"We had a reception line that was quite lengthy this morning," Szymczak said. "We had Family Teachers dropping off their kids and staff members all there. The kids were excited to get their schedules and get started."

Szymczak said one of the reasons Monday went so smoothly was that the students helped their teachers prepare the school for its opening. That took place Saturday, a whirlwind that transformed the building from one filled with boxes to one that was ready for the 2013-14 year.

"Family teachers and students gave us so much help," Szymczak said. "Without that help, we wouldn’t have furniture in the classrooms like we did. The Art room had piles of stuff up to the ceiling that needed to be sorted through and shelved."

By mid-morning, the opening day of school sounded much like every other school day - students chatted during passing periods, lockers opened and closed - the sights and sounds were the same as they have always been.

"Teachers are going through their expectations for the year, just like they would normally," Szymczak said. "The teachers are ready for the year and so are the kids."

The school renovation is being funded entirely by the Moose, and Szymczak paid tribute to the men and women whose donations have made the project possible. A second phase - which includes an auditorium, a new entrance to the school, a Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) classroom, is planned.

"When you look at a public school, you've got tax dollars that are going to fund your schools," Szymczak said. "And you don’t have any choice. Moose members have a choice. If they didn't want to provide a better environment for our kids, they wouldn't give. There's a long way to go, but it is wonderful seeing them donate because they want to and not because they have to. They are saying that Mooseheart's been here the last 100 years and they're looking forward to it being here the next 100 years."


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