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'A college campus for middle school kids'

Students begin to filter into Dickinson Middle School as the first day of school district-wide was underway Thursday morning (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Julie Cloer, a paraprofessional for Dickinson Middle School, greets a student as they enter the facility. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)2 / 3
With Dickinson Public Schools superintendent Doug Sullivan next in line, Julie Cloer welcomes a student with a high-five as they the facility. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press) 3 / 3

Standing at the entrance of Dickinson Middle School, Julie Cloer held open the door and made sure to greet every single passing student with a smile, fist bump, hug or pleasantry.

It was a warm welcoming to all the kids—most of whom were smiling back—ready to christen Dickinson Middle School for its first day in operation. Cloer, a paraprofessional at the school, asked one child in particular "aren't you excited for the first day here? It's like a college campus for middle school kids." Grinning from ear to ear, the student nodded in agreement.

The anticipation is over at the newly minted middle school as the first day of school began across the district.

"Exciting" and "scary" were two of the words assistant principal Cassie Francis used to describe what it's like to be apart of this new experience, however with the latter, it wasn't so much in a pejorative sense.

"It's a brand new experience for a lot of people," Francis said. "Not very many people can say they've been a part of a brand-new building opening. You come into a building and usually things are already laid out for you and you just have to tweak things. This is brand new with good direction, but it's a little bit scary at the same time."

After the school district received a $65 million bond in October 2014, Dickinson Middle School broke ground in May 2015. Two years later, the school had its grand opening last month. Many faculty and staff aided the students in the hallways, directing them on where to go. Upon their arrival, Francis, who previously was the assistant principal at Hagen Junior High School, sensed mixed emotions on the faces of the students.

"Lots of smiles, but at the same time, I've seen a few coming in that looked a little bit nervous which I think is a little bit typical of your first time in a new school," Francis said. "But instead of us dealing with one grade level coming in where the building is new, we've got three grade levels where the building is new. It's scary probably at any age where you walk into a first job or a first, new building that you don't know what to expect and you don't always where things are. That can cause I would assume some anxiety in some of the kids walking through the building, but at the same time, you can beat a beautiful new building."

The 200,000-square-foot facility includes laboratory/shop spaces for technology, art, computers, home economics, music and wood shop. It also includes, football and soccer fields, a full-size track, and a 17,000-square-foot gymnasium. The school was designed with versatile configurations for classrooms, glass operable partitions and sliding "barn door" style walls.

For eighth-grader Que Dakken, of Hebron, he's most looking forward to the added leg and elbow room.

"I'm expected things to run a lot more efficiently than last year, a lot more planned out," Dakken said. "There's more room and better classroom designed for this many students. I'm really excited. I'm from a different town so I haven't seen most of my friends all summer."

Seventh-grader Seth Main had a chance to walk through the faculty and has particular item he's most looking forward to.

"The chairs, they all look really comfy," Main said of his first impressions. "It's a bit overwhelming, but yet I'm really excited to go to school here."

The school estimates 850 students are enrolled in Dickinson Middle School, about a 50-student increase from Hagen Junior High last year.

Patrick Bernadeau

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. He can be reached at his office number (701) 456-1211 or email him at Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers ( in Stuart, FL as well as carrying bylines from the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today and Naples Daily News. Prior to his move to Dickinson, he resided in Port St. Lucie, FL, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Florida Atlantic University. Patrick was born and raised in Brockton, Mass and is an avid Boston sports fan. Born to Haitian parents, Patrick's favorite meal is Griot with Banana Peze, Pikliz (Fried pork with smashed plaintains and a spicy vegetable relish) and a tall glass of Cherry Coke.

(701) 456-1211