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Boise principals on a new school year: ‘We’re just one sleep away.’

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Boise High School
Monica Nydegger (lower left) is principal at Hawthorne Elementary School and Robb Thompson (lower right) is principal of Boise High School.

Wednesday, August 17 has been circled on thousands of calendars, all across Boise. That’s when about 20,000 students and another 2,000 educators will begin the 2022-23 school year.

“We are over the moon with the anticipation and excitement right along with the kids,” said Monica Nydegger, principal at Hawthorne Elementary. “Just recently, I was driving past one of our elementary schools and on the reader board it says, ‘Trust in the magic of beginnings.’”

And at Boise High School, those same “beginnings” never get old.

“In what other profession do you get an opportunity, every 12 months, to start anew?” asked Boise High principal Robb Thompson.

Nydegger and Thompson visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview what they say will be a particularly emotional first day back to class.

“I love that you said ‘magic.’ Right now, right now we're one sleep away.”<br/><br/>

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I’m George Prentice. You know that the year is flying by when you look at the calendar and realize that Wednesday is the… how is this possible?  …Wednesday is the first day of school… a new school year in the Boise School District. So just before the glorious madness that is the first day back, we thought we could get a few minutes with two of the busiest people in town tomorrow. Monica Nydegger is the principal at Hawthorne Elementary. Robb Thompson is the principal at Boise High School. Good morning to you both.

ROBB THOMPSON: Good morning.

MONICA NYDEGGER: Good morning, George. Thank you for having us.

PRENTICE: Robb, first off, can you remind our listeners about the advantage of starting school in mid-August?

THOMPSON: Yes, I would love to. For us at the secondary level, particularly grades 9 through 12…and all students really who are working towards advancement in terms of credits toward high school graduation, having the semester completed… the first semester of the school year completed… prior to the extended holiday break in the wintertime, which is usually anywhere from 2 to two-and-a-half weeks long. It is significant, just in terms of the preparation and the continuity of the academic preparation that's gone into that semester. We value, obviously, allowing our students and faculty to all have time with family and doing those things that they like to do, whether they're traveling or what have you during the holiday time and not having to come back to school for a couple of weeks and then complete final exams, wrap up, final projects, etc., etc., things that they might otherwise be working on during the holiday break if we did not end the semester. Prior to that, we found, quite honestly that the performance levels better when we end before the holiday break, and then also that people truly have an authentic opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves for a couple of weeks before coming back and then starting a new again at a time that seems to make sense.

PRENTICE: A chance to exhale.

THOMPSON: Exactly. Yeah. Take a break for a minute. You know, the word “break” is built into those for a reason, right? We want it to truly be that opportunity for students especially, but also staff and everybody else involved.

PRENTICE: Monica, I was looking at my notes and it was this time last year that kids under the age of 12 couldn't yet get a vaccine. It has been quite a year for elementary age school kids….for your kids.

NYDEGGER: We are sitting in a whole different place, and I think very much breathing a little easier right now. Just the availability of vaccines for all of our elementary grade students. It's exciting. And I mean, with that, of course, I think just looking back over the past couple of years, the silver lining is we saw such resilience from our families, our students, our staff. And we're just excited to get back to what we do best and springboard from where we've been and meet everyone where they're at. You know, as far as COVID and our mitigating measures, our board just recently approved an updated health and safety plan, and that can be found on our website. And along with that, our district illness procedures, which of course does still outline face coverings as optional. And all of our key mitigation strategies are still in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. And, you know, really the bottom line is when you're sick, no matter what, just stay home and, you know, return when you're healthy. So, all of that is outlined with our updated plan on our website.

PRENTICE: Robb Thompson, over the past couple of years, in particular, at the height of the pandemic, I've had the opportunity to talk to some of your students on this program about science and health. And what impressed me, time and again, was how engaged they are with truly wanting to effect change in their future.

THOMPSON: That's, I think, one of the things we're probably most proud of in the Boise School District is the civic engagement mentality. And obviously, that's one of the sort of the hallmarks of the education that that we believe to be important is, you know, we're in the process of developing responsible citizenry. And so, to have students at all levels from elementary and up through high school who are who are involved in civic engagement, whether it be talking about science standards or wanting to promote. Opportunity in the community for specific things. We certainly want to encourage them to obviously learn, to learn, to think and see what they value to be important and have the opportunity to express their voice. We've had a number of students at all of our high schools who have taken advantage of that. And we're happy to encourage that and glad that they have those opportunities here in Boise.

PRENTICE: Monica, no matter how old you are, the world has become more complex. So, on a day like the first day back to school, I'm guessing it's smiles all around. Can you talk to the magic that is that first day back?

NYDEGGER: I love that you said “magic,” George. I mean, right now we're just one sleep away. I mean, that's where we're all at right now. We are over the moon with the anticipation and excitement right along with the kids. And just recently I was driving past one of our elementary schools and on the reader board it says, “Trust in the magic of beginnings.” And it hit me…exactly that. It is magical. There's nothing like it. And just to be a part of in this profession, I think it's the best profession ever, in my opinion. We get to come alongside our kiddos every single August and have that first day right along with them. And it's just as magical for our students as it is for our staff. You know, the rekindling of friendships, meeting new faces, you know, that nervous feeling in your stomach, the really good nervous feeling, though, you know, unpacking supplies, meeting their teacher and, you know, first and foremost, just building those relationships. There's nothing like it.

PRENTICE: Rob, Monica, could I assume you clear your schedule on the first day of school?

NYDEGGER: Oh, yes. We're out there.

THOMPSON: I would just echo what Monica said. It's such a great opportunity. In what other profession do you get? An opportunity, every 12 months to start anew…while bringing along what you've already learned. And so, “Happy New Year” isn't just something we use at the holidays in January. We really feel like that when the school year starts and it's such a time of celebration and opportunity and everybody just has a chance to to get together again and see each other and experience things together. And it's just what a great time of year this is. We love it.

PRENTICE: Robb Thompson is the principal at Boise High. Monica Nydegger is the principal at Hawthorne Elementary. Congratulations to you both on a new school year, and I'm guessing that this year is extra special. Have a wonderful day on Wednesday.

NYDEGGER: Thank you again for having us this morning. In just a few hours, our campus is going to be full of smiling students and parents and teachers. It's quite a sight to see and to be a part of. This is going to be a strong and meaningful and memorable year for all of our learners in the Boise School District.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much, George. We look forward to it and we're excited to welcome everybody tomorrow. And we thank you so much for your time and and just giving us a minute to talk about how special we believe the Boise schools are and the start of the start of the new school year.

When people ask me, “What time do you start Morning Edition?” my go-to answer is, “Don’t worry. No matter what time you get up, we’re on the job.”