Rock ‘n’ roll, dance lights, bouncing inflatable balls, glow sticks — this wasn’t a typical first day of school.

Music teachers at Chaska Middle School West used a spoonful of sugar to help the syllabus go down on Tuesday morning.

Before going over expectations and school rules, teachers Eric Songer and Maggie Zeidel arranged a special four-song jazz and rock concert for students, including classics such as “Take the A-Train” and “Jessie’s Girl.”

Songer invited a few professional musicians to perform, including Kai Brewster, Alex Ortberg, Kris Stauffer and his wife, Heidi Songer. Eric Songer and Zeidel both provided vocals and performed on trombone.

It was a chance to give the students an “experience of what we do here,” Songer said. “We did it last year, and we had to make it a tradition.”

Besides teaching the more traditional music, Songer switches it up, offering classes through Community Education, with music ranging from mariachi to country to garage band.


As of last Friday, Eastern Carver County Schools had 9,742 students set to start on the first day of school, according to Celi Haga, district director of communications and community relations.

The numbers include 3,538 first- through fifth-graders; 2,216 middle schoolers; 3,165 high schoolers; 35 in the Steps Toward Adult Responsibility (STAR) program; and 788 kindergartners. “Our biggest kindergarten class in district history,” Haga noted.

For the 2019-20 school year, 1,432 district staffers are on hand to help the students, including 773 teachers (63 new), 298 paraprofessionals, 81 food service employees, and 71 custodial workers.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.


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