Students in York and Clover public schools headed back to class with others across York County last week, braving light fog and fending off occasional first-day jitters.
At York’s Cotton Belt Elementary School, Principal Jennifer Bolin stood in front of the school where she eagerly greeted both returning students and new ones, many of them by name.
“I’m anxious for them to come back,” Bolin said happily in between the hugs she offered her students. “All summer, it’s so boring without them here.”
Scenes of joy – and those of a little anxiety – played out across the school as parents and students, many of them sporting colorful new backpacks, arrived for their classes.
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Kim Blair brought her two sons, 6-year-old Ian and 7-year-old Eli, to Cotton Belt for first and second grade, respectively.
“I’m glad,” Blair said about the new school year. “I like the routine.”
Wendy Campbell bid farewell to her youngest daughter, 7-year-old Sally, who is starting first grade.
“Bye-bye, sweetie,” she called.
Her older daughter, 10-year-old Lucy, is starting fifth grade at York Intermediate.
Campbell said the start of a new year is “a little bit bittersweet,” because they’ve enjoyed a nice summer.
“We love the schools here. But we’ve also had a good summer so it’s hard to let it go.”
Inside the school, teachers like Vanessa Hefley, were busy getting their students settled in. Hefley has been teaching kindergarten for 10 years, but said she’s still nervous for the start of each year.
“I’m just as nervous as they are every year, just getting into it,” Hefley said. “This is their first time in school, and I want to make sure the transition is as good as it can be.”
York and Clover school officials said the opening went smoothly.
In Clover, where seven of the 10 schools underwent some sort of construction during the summer, opening day went well, said Superintendent Marc Sosne. He said the Clover district, which had about 6,600 students last year, has about 100 more students this year.
The Clover district is still working to complete metal canopies at its schools to provide better weather protection and to better define school entrances. The work is expected to be complete this fall.
Two other larger school construction projects are underway. Bethel Elementary is getting a new administrative office, and Crowder’s Creek Elementary is getting a new administrative building. The Crowder’s Creek project is set to be complete by the holiday break in December.
In York, Superintendent Vernon Prosser said first-week enrollment was stable as expected, with about 4,870 students. He said the district added one kindergarten teacher at Hunter Street Elementary because its kindergarten enrollment was larger than expected.
“Opening day and this whole week have gone absolutely wonderful,” he said. “It didn’t happen by accident. It happened because the staff really did a good job of planning and attention to detail.”
Prosser said York didn’t have any school construction over the summer, which enabled the district to catch up on some of its preventive maintenance.
“A lot of kids are already back into the routines,” Prosser said. “It’s great.”