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Ninth graders will get a day to adjust

Rosemount High School hopes a new approach to the first day of school will make the transition to high school easier for ninth graders and make the first week of school more efficient for everyone.

The halls will be a bit emptier when RHS kicks off the new school year Sept. 8. Instead of four grades worth of students jostling for space in the halls that morning there will be just one. Ninth graders will have the first half of the day to find their classes, take class pictures and review the student handbook.

The idea, principal John Wollersheim said, is to give the school's freshmen a chance to get familiar with the building and the route from one class to the next without having to deal with the potential intimidation caused by the presence of their older, larger classmates.

"We know there's statistics showing the more successful students are in ninth grade, the more successful they're likely to be (in high school)," Wollersheim said. "We're hoping that half day will make it a better transition for those students."

The freshmen will have already been through the school before the first day, but those were at open houses, often with their parents around. Doing things on their own is different.

"I think back to my first day at Brooklyn Center. You think, 'Will my locker open OK? Will I be able to make it to my classes?'" Wollersheim said. "In my opinion, the most important thing is, they're going to go through the schedule without having the full 2,000 students in the building."

The school will also have junior and senior student ambassadors on hand Tuesday to help any freshmen who need directions.

Older students will show up for the second half of the day.

The day won't just be about helping young students find their way around the school, though. Teacher on special assignment Drew Storley, who did much of the work to organize Tuesday's first day, said the idea is also to get through some of the typical early-year distractions such as bus safety drills that in previous years were spread out over the first week or two of school. With most teachers using the first day of class just to introduce themselves to their students, there wasn't usually a lot of learning going on that day anyway, Storley said.

"The biggest benefit is gaining academic days later," Storley said. "You don't have as many disruptions. It's really being able to take care of a lot of those things on the first day."

Rosemount's new program is modeled in part after an approach that has proved successful in recent years at Eagan High School. Farmington High School has had good results dedicating the entire first day of classes to new students.

"From the schools we've talked to that have done it, it's been a good experience," Wollersheim said.