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Students headed back to class

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HIT THE GROUND RUNNING: Oneboygets off the bus on his first day of school at Park Elementary Wednesday morning.
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READY OR NOT:Students step off the bus on their first day back to school at Park Elementary in Fairmount.
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GOT YOUR BACK: Two young students head into Park Elementary together on the first day of school Wednesday morning.

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

FAIRMOUNT — Summer mornings spent sleeping in are over for students at three Grant County school corporations.

Kids streamed into schools Wednesday morning at Oak Hill United School Corporation, Mississinewa Community Schools and Madison-Grant United School Corporation for their first days back.

“The first day was absolutely wonderful, it was so neat seeing all the parents and kids coming in … and meeting their teachers with such excitement and energy,” said Madison-Grant Superintendent Scott Deetz.

Deetz said the main logistical challenge of the first day back is transportation, since for some kids it will be the first day they’ve ever ridden a bus.

“The challenge is to take our time, communicate with the school and the bus drivers … making sure that we drop off the right (students) at the right places,” Deetz said. “The first day always runs a little slower when we’re getting (students) home.”

Stephanie Lockwood, principal at Northview Elementary, part of Mississinewa Community Schools, agreed busing is a challenge on the first day, but said Wednesday went smoother than expected and buses only ran about five minutes behind.

“It will get better as we go on and the kids get used to the pick-up locations … once the kids get acclimated to where they need to go and understand where they’re going to be picked up,” Lockwood said.

Oak Hill also had a smooth first day transporting its kids to school. “Our transportation model and process went well this morning … no major delays or issues,” said Oak Hill Superintendent Joel Martin.

At Oak Hill, a lot of schools have seen leadership changes. Since the recent departure of Oak Hill High School’s principal, Mike McDivitt, Shawn Means, previously the assistant principal at Oak Hill High, had his first day as principal of the high school, and Nijual Drollinger, previously principal of Sweetser Elementary, began his role as principal of Converse Elementary as Converse’s principal, Valree Kinch, started a new position as director of curriculum, instruction and asssessment for the school corporation.

Kinch’s job is a new one for the school district, and Martin said the role will coordinate general education curriculum, the high ability program and Title I services.

The shifting positions left Sweetser without a principal on the elementary school’s first day Wednesday. Martin said Oak Hill is in the hiring process and “getting close to a decision.”

“The staff at Sweetser Elementary has pulled together and is making sure that the start of the school year for the students is nothing but positive,” said Martin.

For elementary schools, another first day concern is helping students get over the fear of being away from their parents all day.

Lockwood said Northview Elementary opens its doors during the day for the weeks leading up to the first day of school so that parents and kids can come tour the school.

“We like for kids to get acclimated … It eases kid’s minds and parent’s minds,” Lockwood said.

Deetz said it was exciting to see kindergartners already logging into Madison-Grant’s new Chromebooks on day one. The school corporation has been transitioning over the last two years from iPads to Chromebooks and this is the first year the whole corporation will use Chromebooks.

Beyond the classroom, Deetz is looking forward to a renovation project that will begin in October at the high school and junior high to redo the entrance to the school and renovate the school’s old tech and science labs.

At Northview Elementary, Lockwood said this year the school will focus on building on some new programs that began last year; for example, the school’s after school programming.

Northview offers science club, book club, math club, robotics and this year will add a “we the people” club focused on social studies.

“The first day of school has always been one of my favorites,” said Lockwood. “Just seeing their faces … they’re always so proud.”