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Douglas High staff and students back to work

by Scott Neuffer
sneuffer@recordcourier.com

Douglas High French teacher Danielle Esquivel summed up the first day of school with a simple phrase:

“Tres bien,” she said, meaning “very well” in English.

Esquivel, a 1994 Douglas High graduate, is the wife of new Whittell High Principal Crespin Esquivel. A former Spanish instructor in Reno, this is her first year at Douglas as a foreign language teacher.

“My first class was great,” she said, as students flooded into her classroom for the next period. “They seem excited to be here.”

On Monday, after the pleasant, if hot, indolence of summer, the parking lot at Douglas High School was crammed full of cars for the first day of secondary school in the Valley.

Kassie Dunlap, 17, was sitting in the commons late in the morning, awaiting her human anatomy class. The senior gets one period off this year.

“Anatomy is probably going to be my favorite class,” she said. “I want to be a nurse, so knowing the body is important.”

Dunlap is planning to attend Western Nevada College after graduation. But first, she wants to enjoy her last year of high school.

“It’s exciting yet scary, knowing I’m going to be on my own in a couple of months,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to think about. When I was little, I didn’t think about making it through high school, but now, I’m almost done.”

Justin Sweeney, 17, was walking out of his math class with some friends.

“It’s amazing so far, just getting back and seeing old faces,” he said.

Sweeney will also take his place among the class of 2011. When he’s finished, he wants to redirect his attention to culinary arts, of which he’s an avid student, hoping one day to operate his own restaurant.

“I want to take a year off and get my feet wet, getting used to living and working, and then go to college,” he said.

Approximately halfway between breakfast and lunch, the bell rang for the day’s first break. Lauren Eissinger, 16, Riley Cooper, 17, and Jordan Miguel, 18, were seen socializing behind the library.

Cooper had just gotten out of chorus. She said that one day she wants to be a film actress.

“I’m looking forward to just going out with a bang,” she said of her last year of high school, “making the best of it.”

“Hanging out with friends,” added Miguel, “saying good-byes and starting life.”

Students weren’t the only ones with expectations for the new year. New school resources officer Dep. John Meyer was busy acquainting himself with both staff and the student body.

“It’s my first day at DHS with kids in the school,” he said.

Meyer’s son Ben, 15, is a sophomore at the school.

“He’s used to me being around,” Meyer said. “Things are going great so far. The kids are excited to be here, and there have been no issues.”

Like many students, Meyer is looking forward to athletic events this fall as well as school dances.

“I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “The kids are coming up to me and introducing themselves.”

Another enthusiastic school official roaming the campus on Monday was Principal Marty Swisher.

“From a logistical standpoint, this is the best start we’ve had,” Swisher said. “We’re getting better every year.”

Swisher estimated the school has 75-80 new students, including some from Sierra Crest Academy, which closed this summer, and some from out of state.

The school has two new teachers as well: Esquivel and new math instructor Denise Nunley.

“We want kids to be successful academically, and we’re in a position to do that again,” Swisher said. “We have four semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition, and that’s the first indication. For a school our size, that’s very good. And the things that happen on our athletic fields just enhance the school experience.

“We’re excited the kids are back in the building. We’re going to get after it every day and do the best we can for them.”