After weeks of empty classrooms and the dog days of summer, South Lane students are back.
September 6 marked the first day back for sixth and ninth graders while the "rest of humanity," as Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) Principal Mike Ingman called it, joined them on Thursday.
It was the first day for Ingman as well who was installed at CGHS as the interim principal last year after former CGHS head Iton Udosenata announced his departure for North Eugene.
And while changes are taking place all over the South Lane School District--most notably the addition of a new elementary school that will open its doors next fall--Ingman is relying on the past to step into the future.
"There's a mission statement," he said. "Teachers and faculty back in the day, got together and wrote thise mission statement. When I show other educators this mission statement they say it's the best one they've ever seen."
It asks that students put their best foot forward, be engaged and that the faculty provide a welcoming, safe environment for students.
They've solicited the help of technology and a new app, Spirit, to help them in their task. The app allows students and faculty to "check in" at sporting events and other school related activities. The more check ins a team has, the more points and whoever has the most points, wins. What exactly they win is still in flux but for now, a Dutch Bros. card for free coffee is the prize.
"There's so much research that says when students are connected to their schools, attendence rates go up," Ingman said.
Cottage Grove High School seniors had a nearly 50 percent chronic absentee issue last year before the district opted to withhold prom and graduation from students who continued to miss class. Ingman is hoping that the new approach, getting kids involved in school, will help.
"If a student is in three clubs, the attendence rate goes into the high 90s," he said, though admits transportation for after school activities remains a problem.
Still, students can choose from lunch clubs as well.
"No club interfers with another," Ingman said of the lunch schedule.
The 720 students enrolled at CGHS this year will also benefit from the $388,000 in CTE funds coming into the district from Measure 98. The funds must be used for college preparation and dropout prevention as well as career training.
Students will also have eight new teachers and a principal determined to make the first year at his "dream job" a good one.
"The school is big enough to offer things like wood shop and drama but it's small enough that everyone knows everyone," he said. "I want to create a positive school atmosphere and connect kids to school, those are my goals."