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7TH GRADERS GET A JUMP ON JUNIOR HIGH

The hallways of Orem Junior High School, as well as those in seven other Alpine School District junior highs, were filled with hundreds of students trying to find their lockers and their classes Tuesday morning.

However, this first day of school differed from others throughout the state and county because students in one grade - seventh - had the schools all to themselves for a day.Alpine School District started its classes for seventh-graders one day early to let the new junior high students get accustomed to their new schools, and consequently, a whole new experience, said Gary Keetch, the district's superintendent over secondary education.

"This is the most traumatic thing that can happen to these students. They go from the one-teacher, one-classroom-all-day format to the junior highs, where they're switching classrooms every hour," Keetch said. "The students can start out their junior high career disoriented and have a really bad experience if we're not careful."

Officials at Lakeridge Junior High in Orem actually tried the experiment last year, and Keetch and other Alpine district leaders were so encouraged by the results that they decided to try it on the district level.

"We've been wrestling for many years as to how we can get our new junior high schoolers acclimated and so far I'm really pleased with what I've seen this year," he said. "We're having to pay for an extra day of busing, but it seems to be well worth it."

Some of the students were pleased as well, especially since they'll get to take Friday off.

"We don't have any eighth- or ninth-graders bugging us, and we're getting to do some really neat stuff," said Ryan Walker, one of the new Orem Junior High stu-dents.

Tyler Dabling agreed, saying he liked the new experience a lot.

"It's been pretty fun," Dabling said. "And we get a day off when everybody else has to go to school."

The Orem Junior High seventh-graders weren't alone in having to be at school. Eighth- and ninth-grade student body officers served as their guides when the new students got lost or had a question.

"They're going to be OK. They seem to be taking it pretty well," said Breanne Ramey, the student body secretary of commerce and one of the student guides. "And it's kind of fun for us, but we have to go both days."

In addition to meeting their new classmates and teachers, the students at Orem Junior High participated in a scavenger hunt, where they had to find different words written on the doors or chalkboards of their different classrooms. The staff and faculty there also introduced students to their new environment with skits and an assembly.

"The objective is to do something a little different, where we're still having the students find their lockers and classrooms, but it's also centered around them," Orem Junior High Assistant Principal Glenn Martin said. "They'll know it all and should be settled in quite nicely by the time the day is over."

It wasn't all fun and games for the students, though. The seventh-graders also had to take a placement test to assess their mathematics and computational skills.