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First day of school brings tears, smiles

Wednesday was the first day of school for most students in Great Bend, although USD 428 kindergartners went home at noon. Today will also be a half-day for kindergarten, and it will be the first day of school for students in grades 8 and 10-12.
The one-day delay for some students allowed seventh graders at Great Bend Middle School and freshmen at Great Bend High School to have a full day and learn the ropes at their new attendance centers.

At each of USD 428’s five grade schools, staff proclaimed the day a success.
“It’s been nice, a little crazy,” said Shacha Sandoval, a migrant education coordinator at Park School.
“We’ve had lots and lots of parents that came in with kids and took pictures and left,” Park Principal Phil Heeke said. “We had one or two cry, but they quit within minutes.” One or two parents also shed a tear, he said.
“It’s been a great first day. We’re glad to have kids in the hallways again,” Heeke said.

Over at Riley Elementary, Principal JoAnn Blevins was talking to students in the lunchroom, asking how their day was going.
“I got to know the teacher,” said Greidys Perez, a third grader. Asked to share one thing she learned about her new teacher, Mrs. Ward, the girl answered, “she has two kids.”

The first day of school doesn’t follow the regular routine, said Lincoln School Principal Misty Straub. It’s a time for students to get acquainted and learn the expectations. In Karen Smith’s fifth-grade classroom, students made a “spider web” with a ball of yarn, tossing the end from person to person whenever they learned they had common interests or experiences.
“It’s been wonderful,” Straub said. “Our kids have been excited to be back and see the friends they haven’t seen all summer.”

At Jefferson School, Principal Kip Wilson stopped by Katrina Aumiller’s music classroom, where more students were getting acquainted. The children stood in a circle until Aumiller told them to find a partner and shake hands, sharing their first name and favorite color. Wilson joined the game.
While it appeared to be a lot of fun and games, the educators were emphasizing the rules. Once, when students continued to speak as Aumiller gave instructions, she brought the class to attention and reminded them of her signal that means “stop and listen.” Students were told to respond with their own hand signals, one for “I understand” and another for “I don’t understand.”

At Eisenhower School, Nicole Hertel’s first-graders learned a different signal, but each teacher has a routine for restoring order when the children lose focus. The day was coming to a close, and Principal Laurie Harwood was in a meeting when the Great Bend Tribune arrived.

Back at Riley School, Teacher’s Assistant Stacy Strecker presented “Riley Rocks” cards to fourth graders Jorge Garcia and Eli Contreras when they heeded her request for help holding a door as students came in from recess. These slips of paper acknowledge good behavior and can be used later in prize drawings.
After the final bell rang, Principal Blevins summed up the day: “It was a great day. I’m exhausted.”