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Bust out the alarm clocks, school’s back in session
NORTH END — Every September marks the chance to start anew for North Kitsap School District students, parents and staff.
On Wednesday, as NKSD rang in the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, all involved seized the fresh start with positivity, and the day was a nearly flawless success.
“It was really terrific. The kids came back with a positive attitude, ready to learn. It just went like clockwork,” said NKSD Director of Communications Chris Case. “There was a great energy between students and staff. It was a great way to start the year.”
It all began with the typical sights, sounds and smells unique to the schoolhouse first-day-of-school culture.
In the classrooms desks were arrayed in rows, similar in perfection to those at a Christmas tree farm, and ginormous alphabets bordered the walls. Students dressed in their fanciest back-to-school outfits, toted backpacks brimming with supplies and walked through the school doors holding hands with their parents.
Cameras showed up in paparazzi force, as parents captured their excited students walking into school or sitting at their desks. A handful even lingered outside the classrooms, getting in one last wave or blown kiss before relinquishing their children to the caring guidance of the teachers.
The buildings smelled clean with the mild scent of brand new school supplies and the day’s lunchroom offerings wafting through the halls.
Students were being taught the essentials of forming a peaceful line and the symbol for quiet time — a raised hand with two fingers extended — and how to sit for an assembly — “criss-cross applesauce.”
Jitters aside, the dominant theme was exhilaration.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my friends,” said Gordon Elementary seventh-grade Options student Alex Quarrell, who arrived in style on his dad’s motorcycle. “I want to learn to be a better actor. I’m really into Shakespeare.”
Each school kicked off the year with a special twist of its own. At Kingston Middle, Associated Student Body members passed out “welcoming” pencils that read “the first focus is character,” and the “students’ variety” of music played in the halls. The day before the Where Everybody Belongs eighth-grade leaders met the incoming sixth-graders to show them the ropes. Of the 213 KMS sixth-graders 168 were present for their orientation, which was “unbelievable,” according to Principal Susan Wistrand.
“I love this time of year,” said Wistrand who, similar to the students, donned a shiny pair of new shoes. “It’s fabulous. The kids are excited and they like their classes.”
Jackhammers’ beats and flying dust greeted students at North Kitsap High, but nary did the remodel commotion curb the students’ and teachers’ enthusiasm. The Commons is under construction, as are some of the hallways. Navigation is slightly confusing so maps were posted and handed out to all the students. But all are being cooperative, which aligns perfectly with North’s 2008-09 motto: loose and flexible.
“It’s been a leveler for all of us. Usually it’s just freshman who can’t find their way around and right now seniors can’t find their way either,” said Principal Kathy Prasch. “It’s one of the best spirits I’ve seen in the opening of school, we’re all in this together. The mood is jovial. People are laughing.”
The transportation department also enjoyed a seemingly mellow day. Director of Transportation Ron Lee said it was a normal day with the usual confusions and parent calls regarding schedules or if their child got on the correct bus. He said traffic-related delays weren’t much of a problem, especially compared to last year. Congestion can get pretty hairy at the bus lot near Kingston High, however this year the bus arrival and departure times are staggered, as high school and middle school specific routes were developed.
“Half as many buses come back here at a time,” Lee said. “It made it a lot smoother.”
Food service staff arrived at school a day early to prep the kitchens and a majority of the food was ordered the week before to allot for ample preparation time. The first day back breakfast and lunch menus weren’t anything special, said Food and Nutrition Services Director Dan Blazer, as the first day is just like any other day in the lunchroom.
“When I can sit in my office and not have to be out running around putting out fires, I’m doing pretty good,” said Blazer, who did in fact enjoy a few moments of relaxation. “We’ve been doing pretty good.”
Accompanying each fresh school year is a slew of changes and ambitions. Case said the most notable 2008-09 school year change is the budget development process, in that it will start earlier and include significantly more community involvement. Actually improving district communication in all facets is a goal all share at NKSD. Above all learning is No. 1.
“Our first priority is always learning and really focusing on how to improve student achievement,” Case said.