Back-to-School Night at Jeremy Ranch |

Back-to-School Night at Jeremy Ranch

Alexandria Gonzalez, The Park Record

Principal Shawn Kuennen heads a presentation for parents explaining rules and guidelines for the upcoming year. Christopher Reeves/Park Record.

The halls of Jeremy Ranch Elementary were bustling with parents rushing to their children’s classrooms, signing up at the Parent Teacher Organization booth, or filing into the gymnasium for a presentation given by Principal Shawn Kuennan.

It was "Back to School Night" at Jeremy Ranch, and Kuennan stood calmly in front of the gymnasium, content that the night had gone well and according to plan.

"Everything is going smoothly; it’s pretty quiet out here," said Kuennan, obviously used to the chaos of kindergarteners to fifth graders running through the halls.

Now in his sixth year as principal at Jeremy Ranch, Kuennan is still excited to let parents know what they can expect as their child heads back to school at Jeremy Ranch.

"One important change is that our after-school program has more fun and less specifically-academic classes," said Kuennan. "They can participate in Chess Club, Odyssey of the Mind, engineering or athletics."

He also explained that teachers had been working hard all summer to receive students and arrange provisions for another promising school year.

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"Both the first and last days of school are my favorites," said Kuennan. "There is just so much preparation that goes into it all summer that when the kids finally arrive, it’s a glorious welcome back."

As Kuennan walked into the gymnasium to explain rules and guidelines for the upcoming year, parents continued to walk through the halls searching for opportunities to volunteer.

Several parents manned the Parent Teacher Organization table filled with sign-up sheets and Jeremy Ranch Elementary merchandise. One sign at the table read, "Take a sec, sign a check!" All proceeds from the merchandise go straight to the school.

Another table was set aside for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program at the school. Lio Martinez, the Summit and Wasatch Counties Match Support Specialist, explained that there are currently 25 matches needed at Jeremy Ranch.

"We do need volunteers to be Big Brothers or Big Sisters, because we have plenty of ‘littles’ (students) that need a match," said Martinez.

When parents weren’t signing up to volunteer at the PTO or Big Brothers, Big Sisters tables, they were walking into their children’s classrooms and meeting with their teachers.

Stephanie Bartholomew’s room was filled with enthusiastic parents and their children, all eager for their parents to meet their teacher.

"I have never seen a kid come home so happy, and the next day she woke up so early just counting down the minutes until I brought her back to school," one mother told Bartholomew. "She was just raving to her grandmother over the phone."

Her daughter clung to Bartholomew, hugging her as her mother explained how much her daughter’s teacher meant to her.

The room was filled with posters about good writing skills, magnets, multiplication and a timeline from Leif Ericson’s landing with Vikings in the year 1000 all the way up to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. After 26 years of teaching, Bartholomew has come to love Back to School Night.

"Tonight was just fabulous, because I am always very excited to meet the parents," said Bartholomew. "It’s fun to meet all of them and find out what they are worried or excited about."

Bartholomew explained that parents’ concerns are most often whether or not their children will be able to do what is expected of them in the classroom and to keep up or excel and accomplish what they want to accomplish. She said that those concerns rarely ever become a reality, because the parents in Park City are great communicators.

They are also great volunteers, so much so that since some in particular are at the school so often, Kuennan announced that if they attended the student photography session, they could get special badges.

This is more convenient for those parent volunteers rather than having to sign in at the front desk and wearing a bright green sticky badge every time they went to the school, he explained. The roaring applause was an indicator of just how many regular parent volunteers there are at the elementary.

"We have a tremendous volunteer community, so that’s a big part of tonight," said Kuennan, "and I hope they enjoy walking around to the tables; it’s a wonderful place."