Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

The hallways of Brooklyn Primary were filled with people of all ages Tuesday morning for the first day of classes.

Some were students who will be attending classes at the school this year and others were tagalongs who are yet to fill the seats of kindergartners. Still others were there in their roles as parents, grandparents, other family members and friends dropping students off or making last-minute registration adjustments.

Jury Felton, 8, a third-grader in Krystyl Snodgrass’ classroom, was accompanied on his first day by his mom and dad, Desteni and Jesse Felton, and his two little brothers, Justice and Jace. Three-year-old Justice was eager to check out his brother’s school and appeared ready to go with his backpack in place as he made friends with a stuffed snake in the hallway.

“Not yet,” his mother said, “but he wants to.”

Desteni was busy filling out new paperwork first thing Tuesday because the family recently moved to Haines. Jury will continue attending Brooklyn Primary as a third-grader despite the move, his mother said.

A school bus, which will pick Jury up right at their family’s new front door, will bring him into town for class, his mother said.

The family also includes Lana Dethloff, 14, a Baker High School sophomore, and three grown children. Having both school-age children attend classes in Baker City rather than Haines better fits the parents’ work schedule, Desteni said.

Jesse recently was promoted to a management position at Bi-Mart in La Grande and Desteni works as a corrections deputy for the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.

Desteni said the family recently sold their home at Campbell and First streets where they had lived for the past eight years. The Feltons are now living in a farmhouse surrounded by 90 acres in the Haines area where she lived with her parents when her family first moved to Baker County from Seattle in 1994 when she was just 13.

Desteni said her worries that her children would be bored living out in the country have been unfounded.

“They’re finding bugs and mud — the cows get out —they’ve been busy,” she said.

Another family, Zach Gibson, 31, and Jessica Pesch, 27, moved to Baker City from Bend two days ago and were busy enrolling their second-grader, Camille, at Brooklyn as well.

Grandma Julie Wray of Union joined them to provide moral support while Gibson held his 2-month-old son, Hudson, and mom finished up the necessary paperwork. The family also includes 11-year-old Sahailee, who started her first day as a sixth-grader at South Baker Intermediate School Tuesday.

Kindergartners got off to a slower start than their older schoolmates, with three-hour classes scheduled in the mornings and afternoons on Tuesday and Wednesday to allow teachers to observe small groups of children. They’ll have an eye on creating balanced classrooms, said Phil Anderson, the school’s principal.

“We’ll see how they play and observe how they do — not only academically, but also socially and emotionally,” he said.

“We have a goal of creating balance,” Anderson said. “It delays the start of school by a week, but it helps ensure successful placement. It helps create balance.”

The kindergarten teachers will meet on Thursday to compile data and consult with Anderson to distribute the 105 kindergartners among six separate classrooms. Later that day, parents will be notified of their child’s class placement, Anderson said. Kindergarten teachers will spend Friday preparing for the next week.

On Monday, kindergartners and their parents will meet briefly with the teachers and then be ready for a full day of school on Tuesday.

The system has been in place since Anderson joined the school as its principal three years ago.

The entire Brooklyn staff works hard to develop relationships with their students, Anderson said.

“It sets us up for success for the whole year,” he said.

See more in the Sept. 5, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.