All eyes were on Butler Avenue second-grade teacher Christie Tyndall early Monday morning as she walked from one side of her classroom to the other, asking questions of her new second-grade students.
Hands went up as she questioned them about their first day back, smiles spread across their faces as their new teacher called on them for first one answer and then another.
Standing in the doorway, principal Vanessa Brown was all smiles, too, satisfied, she said, that school was back in session and, within a half hour of its opening, learning was under way.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way things went this morning,” Brown said, walking down the quiet hall where the only sounds permeating the silence were teachers going over first-day lessons.
“We’ve been preparing all summer for this. It’s nice to see all that hard work paying off already,” the principal noted.
Brown was in between assemblies, held on Monday to get everyone acquainted with all those at Butler. She met with the third-grade students first, followed by the newbies, some 270 second-graders walking the school’s halls for the very first time.
The assemblies, Brown said, were designed to introduce everyone — from the guidance counselor and assistant principal to maintenance crews and cafeteria staff — to the students. “I want them to know who everyone is so they’ll feel comfortable going up to them if they need something. We want this to be a good experience for them in every way.”
In all, Butler’s staff welcomed 468 youngsters to their first day of school Monday, and all seemed ready for whatever teachers had in store.
“It’s been a smooth transition into school today,” Brown said. “Look around you, they all seem happy to be back and ready to go to work.”
About two miles away, at Clinton High School, teenagers were already in class, books open, lessons ongoing.
“I couldn’t have asked for things to have gone any better,” said principal Ron Bean of the high school’s opening. “Kids were dropped off, they had their schedules in hand, things were organized and we are already hard at work.”
The 225 freshmen on the campus for the first year were introduced to Clinton High a week earlier at an orientation specifically for them and their parents. That, Bean said, served to give them a little more confidence as they arrived for their first day.
“It took some of the edge off, I think,” the principal attested. During that orientation Student Government ambassadors were on hand to give the freshmen a tour of the school, show them their lockers and teach them how to use them.
It was an exercise, Bean said, that proved beneficial. “The transition was much smoother because of it.”
In the county, all things education went off without any problems, according to superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker, who had already visited schools in the Midway and Lakewood districts Monday morning, with plans to hit the Hobbton and Union district schools that afternoon.
“Students are in their classrooms, teachers are teaching, using their thinking maps. In the elementary schools, I saw teachers giving the students a tour of the school … just a lot of good stuff happening at every school I’ve been to,” Lenker said.
A summer’s worth of preparation, the superintendent noted, was being measured by the successes he was witnessing Monday. “It was a good summer as we worked hard to get ready for the opening of school. Looking around at what’s going on today, that preparation has been well worth it.
“Honestly, I think we are in the best shape with this opening that we’ve been in since I got here. We’ve got quality teachers in place and just about all of our positions filled. I’m pleased with where we are as we move into this school year.”
And that pleasure was given an exclamation point Monday as Lenker visited the schools. “When you walk in a school and you can see that everything is running as it should, that’s always a good thing.”
At Salemburg Elementary, principal Gerald Johnson could see that things were running just that smoothly, with students happy to be back and ready to get to work, something the veteran principal said he never tired of seeing.
“Just like clockwork, that’s how things are running,” an elated Johnson said. “I really believe this is the smoothest transition into school I can remember in a very long time.”
Many parents, he said, walked their little ones to class Monday morning, but he didn’t see any tears, usually a trademark of the first day of school. “Well, at least they didn’t show any (tears) while they were in the classroom. I don’t know what happened when they got back out to the parking lot,” Johnson joked.
In all, 475 K-5 students returned to Salemburg Elementary, and Johnson said he really believed this was a year when everyone seemed ready to get back to school.
“They seem really happy to be here and ready to get back to work. What more could one ask for?” the principal said.
Across the county, in the Union district, students at both the elementary and intermediate school were back in classrooms and already hard at work, too, as if, many educators noted, they’d never left, exactly the seamless transition school officials had hoped for.
“It has been a breath of fresh air this morning seeing our eager little faces walk through the hallways with anxious parents issuing last minute hugs,” said Union Elementary principal Linda Jewell Carr. “Our children were greeted by friendly teachers who are eager to teach and share their love of learning.”
Jewell said the first order of business Monday was for teachers to review classroom rules and expectations and teach new routines, all part of orienting students, especially the new ones, to life at school.
“Students are excited to see where to report down the long hallways of our new school year. The first day of school reminds us all why we teach and chose to spend our days in the world of education. The old saying holds true teachers affect the world one student at a time. Educators really do make a difference. We inspire the future,” Carr attested.
Just down the road, at Union Intermediate School, principal Jimmy Workman said his fourth-and fifth-grade students were already immersed in their work.
“I’ve been in just about every classroom this morning and I can tell you teachers are teaching, students are working … school is under way. It’s probably been the smoothest start I’ve experienced,” Workman noted.
Pointing to recently released End of Grade test scores, Workman said from an academic standpoint Union Intermediate had the best students on campus they’d had since the school has been in existence.
“It’s a sign of a good school year,” the principal attested. “Another good sign is how well things went today. Things are running exactly as they are supposed to run. It’s been a really good day.”