Each year, about 200 new students join our community. Starting a new school can be tough. Will you make any friends? Who do you sit with at lunch? Where is my locker? And my classrooms? Will I like my teachers?
Our team of dedicated faculty and staff work hard to make the transition as seamless—and fun—as possible, and current students join in to create connections and share their experiences. A variety of initiatives unique to each division are great ways to welcome newcomers to the MICDS family, ensuring that our newest friends are ready to hit the ground running on the very first day. Each division plans and executes specific activities designed to meet the needs of students and their families.
Students in the Lower School get to hang out in a favorite Beasley spot before starting school: the Beasley playground! Welcome Days for each grade allowed students and their families to play and meet each other, along with homeroom and specialist teachers, associates, and assistants. The days were filled with laughter and connection, a perfect introduction to our nurturing Lower School.
The day before school started, new students enjoyed Orientation Day. Parents arrived in the Beasley Dining Room and were greeted by all Lower School faculty and staff. Everyone enjoyed breakfast treats before spending time in their new homerooms with their new friends and teachers. Linda Ganss, Lower School Administrative Assistant, said, “I heard great things from parents, both new and returning. The children loved meeting their teachers and seeing their friends.”
“We were eager to welcome our new and returning students to campus and to provide the opportunity for them to enjoy their learning spaces before the first day of school,” said Amy Scheer, Head of Lower School. “It was wonderful to see the students reconnecting and playing in the newly prepared spaces, and they felt right at home on the first day of school after having already had a chance to connect with their teachers and classmates.”
The goal of the Middle School Bridge Program is to provide a successful transition for our new students as they begin their careers in the Middle School at MICDS. It’s a big job, since most of our new students enter through the Middle School each year. The program includes orientation to the campus, academic enrichment, organization and study skills, and socialization within the MICDS community.
Incoming Middle School students met each day for a week. They participated in icebreaker and team-building activities, and learned that Middle Schoolers operate by LEAD: Learning with curiosity and joy, Embracing challenge, Advocating for yourself and others, and Demonstrating collaboration and teamwork. Every day of Bridge was sponsored by one letter.
New students also learned about the history of MICDS, where to find important resources on campus (the cafeteria, carpool, MS Office, grade level hallways and lockers, the Help Desk, restrooms, the Courtyard, and the front lawn), and information about their class schedules. They received their laptops and some training from the MICDS Technology Team, learning how to log in and change passwords, and experiencing the student portal, MICDS email, and Canvas.
Ninth-grade students volunteered to share their insight and perspective with these new friends, serving as Rambassadors and speaking about the daily schedule, class length, what to expect on Welcome Day, and their personal experiences. New fifth and sixth graders even made welcome posters for the first week of school.
Callie Bambenek, Middle School Science Teacher, develops and runs the Summer Bridge program each year, with a lot of help from other faculty and staff members. She said, “We have so many new students, including the entire fifth grade joining the division, so we want to be sure everyone is feeling safe and connected with peers and adults. There is a lot of advisory and grade level time so those systems can be finely tuned before heading to classes!”
She recruited rising ninth graders to be Rambassadors. “They led small groups and helped connect our giant JK-12 community. The end goal was for them to make this place feel smaller.” She hopes more students will volunteer to help in the future, and says the new members of the MICDS community appreciate connecting with students closer to their own age instead of hearing from just teachers.
Rambassador Eleanor Cheers ’26 said, “I chose to do Bridge because it was a great opportunity to help kids with their transition into MICDS. It was also a fun way to get my community service hours.” Akira Washington ’26 agreed. “I definitely regretted signing up for this after waking up at 6:45 on the first day, but I couldn’t have asked for a better week,” she said. “I loved being a leader to these amazing and very entertaining kids.”
Head of Middle School Jen Schuckman sees the Bridge program as essential to ensuring a smooth transition. She said, “I know that a lot of successful connections were made! From my perspective, it’s all about installing the systems (carpool, lunch/recess, schedule, classroom locations, lockers, supervision, dress code, behavior expectations, etc.) and making sure students are happy, comfortable, and settled in.”
Kerry Bryan, Associate Director of Admission for the Middle School, appreciates Bridge and takes it a step further by linking new families with veterans in a program called Ram Connector Families. “This can be a great resource for new families when they take advantage of the connection,” she said. “Ram Connector Families are a great resource for all the questions new families have about the School. They usually also get together during the summer so the kids get to meet a new friend before school begins.”
Upper School Counselor David Hotaling works on a Bridge Program for rising ninth-grade students who are new to MICDS. For two days before school started, students received an introduction to our academic expectations and the computer knowledge necessary for successful integration into the learning process. They also learned about information and support resources to help students with their transition to Upper School. Perhaps most importantly, Bridge provided access to current students (Bridge Mentors) who welcomed them to the school, provided information about student life, and answered questions. The goal is to give new students the guidance and confidence to successfully navigate their early days at MICDS.
“When you’re brand new to our community it can be a little intimidating,” said Hotaling. “Even though we’re a very welcoming place overall, with the size of the campus, the class schedule, and all the moving parts, it’s a lot for anyone to absorb. I love that our Upper School provides our newest students opportunities to connect with other new students, meet some current students, walk their schedule, and get their questions answered before the commotion of the first day of school.”
Right before school started, Freshman Dean Daniel George hosted the entire ninth grade for orientation. The entire class heard from Head of School Jay Rainey, Head of Upper School Scott Small, and Dean George. They also met with their advisories, went on a campus tour, learned how to read their schedules and how to navigate the lunch room. Leadership activities and social time (with Italian ice treats!) rounded out the program.
Small said, ”This is a great opportunity for us to welcome new members of the community and to help address initial anxiety by establishing relationships, creating familiarity with the campus, and answering questions.”
“It was excellent to see the Class of 2026 on campus as full members of the Upper School Community,” said George. “Although apprehensive at first, the freshmen were eager to engage and learn more about each other, their advisor, and how the Upper School functions. They were extremely appreciative of the encouragement and information from the senior leaders who shared their experiences as they start their final year at MICDS.”