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Families Stampede South County

Parents, students fill South County a week before school starts for Stallion Stampede.

A clogged parking lot, throngs of students filling the halls and eager parents signing up for volunteer activities could only mean one thing at South County Secondary School on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

"This is the second year we've done this, it's tradition," said South County principal Dale Rumberger, taking a break from talking with parents and examining student's schedules during the — it's official now — second-annual Stallion Stampede.

Last year, when the staff at the school had only had control of the whole building for a little over a week, Rumberger decided to open the doors of the brand new school to the community, so parents and students could walk around and get a feel for their new building.

The response was so positive, it was a quick and easy decision to make the Stampede South County's first tradition.

"If it helps kids and their parents feel more comfortable in their school, we'll do it," Rumberger said. "If it helps new teachers get a feel for their new community, we'll do it."

Parents started arriving at 3:30 p.m. for the event, which didn't start until 4 p.m., Rumberger said.

THE STAMPEDE was a little less chaotic this year, Rumberger said, although he did have a delivery of furniture for the five modular classrooms arrive one day early that had to be unloaded before the parking lots filled.

An added incentive, by giving the students the opportunity to pick up their schedules before school begins instead of mailing more than 3,000 packets home, the school saves several thousand dollars.

"We're trying to do as many things ahead of time as possible so we can come in and focus on classes right away next week," Rumberger said.

In the front office, parents were streaming in, asking where certain teachers were located or asking to use cell phones to track down their children.

"Everybody's happy, everybody's excited," said Rita Clarke during a lull in frenzied activity. "There's always a huge turnout. We want everyone to come."

If parents were not able to attend the Stampede, they can call the front office to obtain their child's schedule, Clarke said.

"It's a lot easier for everyone if they attend this open house," she said.

Clarke and Rumberger said it was interesting to watch the seventh grade students and parents walking around with their schedules, trying to find their way through the enormous school.

"The really savvy ones will check everything out, looking at their schedule in one hand and checking the classroom numbers," Rumberger said. "They'll be so much more comfortable when they come in on Friday for orientation."

AFTER A MERE 53 weeks in the building, Rumberger said students who have been in the school know some of the quirks of trying to fit 3,000 people in the hallways.

"They know they can't just stop in the middle of the floor," Rumberger said, moving past a group of students comparing classes. "You have to keep moving."

With approximately one-quarter of the high school students new this year, Associate Principal Jane Lipp said the transition for new students should be a little easier than last year, when every student and teacher was new to the building.

"Right now, it's a matter of getting everyone acclimated to what they need to do to get started and seeing what's available in terms of after-school activities," Lipp said.

Parents had the chance to sign up for committees and volunteer activities, Lipp said, adding that she was still impressed by the volunteer community in the South County area.

"We have probably between 60 and 70 parent volunteers handing out schedules today," she said. "People are still really excited about being here and being a part of this school."

Lisa Wentzel has two children at South County this year, a senior and a sophomore. They attended the Stampede last year to see the inside of the new school, and she returned this year to take care of some errands.

"Everyone seems more excited and more enthusiastic this year," she said. "I think last year, people didn't know what to expect."

With her checkbook in hand, Wentzel said it was helpful to be able to come in and purchase physical education uniforms for her children and pay her older child's senior class dues.

"I think this is just great," she said.

Several of South County's performance groups, from the chorale and string orchestra to a theater sports group, showcased some of their talents during the Stampede. Various booster groups were selling South County items, from ornaments and beads to license plate covers and seat cushions, to raise money for their respective organizations. Many of these items will continue to be on sale at the school during the year.