Sites and sounds: Salem-Keizer goes back to school


Sites and sounds: Salem-Keizer goes back to school

6:51 p.m. PDT September 7, 2016

Lockers opening and closing. Masses of students walking through hallways. Teachers giving start-of-the-year speeches. Name games. Crisp zippers on school-colored clothes.

There is so much to see and hear on the first day of school.

Perhaps you noticed an increase in traffic as you drove to work Wednesday? Yellow school buses driving every which way?

After all, about 41,000 students had places to go, people to see, things to learn.

The Salem-Keizer School District is almost in full swing since all grades — excluding kindergartners — began the 2016-17 school year Wednesday.

Kindergartners will start  September 14.

At Grant Elementary School, the students began the year with their regular schedule, changing from their main room to certain elective classes, like music and physical education.

Children were lining up to switch rooms, talking and playing, looking around, and wearing all sorts of fun clothing. One girl wore a pink, princess dress over her clothes.

Victoria Gomez, a first grade teacher at Grant, said the first day was “perfect.”

“I just love to teach,” she said, smiling as she spoke about her students and the first day.

Gomez has taught in the district for six years, after having taught in Guadalajara, Mexico for 30 years.

For the first day, her students played name games and started to learn the ropes.

Gomez said they read a book about a little boy who forgot his name and got lost in the city. He couldn’t find his way back to the school for his grandmother to pick him up.

She said she used the story to stress the importance of learning your name and your friends’ names.

Gomez has 30 new names to learn.

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate, Facebook at


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Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is the education reporter for the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. Natalie has previously worked for organizations and publications such as Direct Relief International, Waging Non-Violence, and Amnesty International USA. She has had stories published with USA Today, Associated Press and Ozy, among others. Natalie earned her B.A. in Politics and French and Francophone Studies (FFS) from Willamette University. During her studies, she wrote a Politics thesis titled, "No One is Dying: How and Why the U.S. Federal Government Avoids Executing Prisoners on Federal Death Row" and an FFS thesis, in French, on cannibalism in the 16th and 17th centuries. Natalie is a journalist, performer, traveler, fiction writer and more. She is working to publish her dystopian novella, "Choice," which follows a man during 24 hours in solitary confinement for allegedly committing murder. For more information on Natalie visit, like her on Facebook at, or follow Natalie on Twitter (@Nataliempate) or Tumblr (Nataliempate blog "In the Shoes of a Journalist"). Her reporting with the Statesman Journal can also be found at

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