Blue Ridge School students had mixed emotions after waking up a bit earlier yesterday to catch the bus for the first day of classes. However, things went smoothly on a sunny Monday morning as buses and parents dropped off kids to a welcoming BRS staff beginning the new school year.
Former substitute teacher and now full-time 3rd-grade Teacher, Nikki Westwood, said the first day can be intimidating, especially for the young students. To help put them at ease, she set up each desk topped with a can of Plato.
“I give them a little activity they know how to do and how to work with, it calms them down,” said Westwood. “Plus, I meet them with a smile, that makes all the difference.”
Another new addition to BRS staff includes Therapist Andrew Dwyer, whose main goal is the mental health of the student body.
“The most important thing is giving these kids a place they can come and speak freely without judgement and receive an empathetic response,” said Dwyer.
For many of the young students, it wasn’t the first time headed back to school this year. On Thursday, BRS held an open house to help students get familiar with their new teachers and classrooms. It’s a chance for parents to take care of some of the administrative details of enrollment, but thanks to BRS Elementary Principal Terry Walawender, it’s also a chance for the kids to cut loose on inflatables of all sizes, including a water slide.
“The open house is a chance to get families back into school and give kids the opportunity to meet new teachers and relieve any anxiety they may have,” said Walawender. “And it allows teachers to make contact with the parents and meet the person who will be with their kids for the next year.”
She added that students really seem to get into the spirit when waterslides and inflatables are involved.
“It’s exciting, and we’re excited to have them back,” said Walawender. “It’s a lot more fun doing it this way than just walking through hallways looking at classrooms.”
New Blue Ridge Early College Principal Tracie Metz said having an informal open house was great for the students and an excellent opportunity to chat with parents.
“It’s great to meet both the students and parents in a relaxed setting,” said Metz. “Having that relationship is so important and they need to know that we’re (BRS staff) available to them for any questions, concerns, or ideas they have.”
Summit Charter School begins their school year on Aug. 22, and Highlands School begins Aug.26.