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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 03 2013

Fargo parents find out what it's like to head back to school

FARGO – Judi Reinke took no chances with getting a locker combination wrong Thursday at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School.

Reinke, a parent attending classes a half day apiece for her twins, McKenzie and Paige, said once the locker was open, “I took out everything I needed.”

It was “Parent Replace Your Child Day” at Carl Ben, and Reinke was getting a good taste of the hustle, bustle and learning her twin sixth-grade daughters take on every day.

“In reading class, I was reminded I don’t know how to draw,” Reinke said with a chuckle. “But I enjoyed singing in choir.”

Between Carl Ben, and its predecessor, Agassiz Middle School, Principal Brad Larson has presided over the event for 15 years.

The parents go to all of their child’s classes, take notes, take part in class discussions, eat lunch and work on assignments. Meanwhile, their children are encouraged to attend work that day with their other parent or guardian, or a volunteer in the community, Larson said.

“It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” he said.

Assistant principal Dean Wilson said the event can be an eye-opener for parents.

“Parents will be saying ‘Wow!’ ” as they see the different ways teachers teach, and the integration of technology into the classrooms, from smart boards to tablet computers, he said. “I’ve never had anyone disappointed.”

In Donn Bryant’s reading class, Ellen Shafer, sitting in front with a cup of coffee and a smartphone, said she’s already bragged on Facebook about heading to school in place of her son, Ethan.

“I really like seeing what his day is like. I’m looking forward to advanced math,” she said. “That’s the one that gives him more trouble.”

Matt Nystrom was attending for his daughter, Ashlund.

“Kids now have so much better access than we did” to information, Nystrom said. “I think it’s exciting compared to what we had access to.”

For Nystrom, it’s been 30 years since he was a sixth-grader.

“I didn’t realize they had laptops,” Nystrom said, and he liked the “pod” layout of classrooms.

In Michele Frenette’s science lab, the students and parents did an experiment with polymers to walk them through the steps of the scientific method.

“A lot of parents think school isn’t work. The kids are on task constantly,” Frenette said. “They’re tired when they get home. There’s brain drain.”

Todd Christlieb was taking in Frenette’s class for his son, Peyton.

“I’m finding it very much geared for a high school atmosphere,” Christlieb said. “A lot of material is like learning in the ninth or 10th grade” for earlier generations.

Sasha Hagen was impressed by her new adult classmates in math class.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” she said, adding wistfully, “The kids get a break. My mom was busy though.”

At the end of the morning, the adults were starting to think about lunch.

“Of course I’m hungry,” said Nora Gale, who was there for her son, Miles Ulschmid. “They should have a snack time, and a nap time, too.”

When it was time to head to lunch, Bryant had some simple advice for the moms and dads.

“If you have questions about what you’re doing, ask one of the kids,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583