August 14, 2013

First day of school for thousands of Wichita kids

The big yellow buses were running throughout the Wichita area Wednesday, as most of the city’s 50,000-plus students and those in several surrounding districts returned to class for another new school year.

The big yellow buses were running throughout the Wichita area Wednesday, as most of the city’s 50,000-plus students and those in several surrounding districts returned to class for another new school year.

It also is the first day of school for nearly 400 new teachers in Wichita – 123 of them recent college graduates teaching for the first time, district officials said.

At Stanley Elementary School, near Harry and Seneca, first-year teacher Molli Sebastian helped 25 first-graders sort supplies and settle into their desks, then gathered them on the carpet near a rocking chair and picked up the book “First Day Jitters,” by Julie Danneberg.

“That’s a weird word – jitters,” Sebastian said, holding out the cover for the class to see. “If you think you might know what ‘jitters’ means, I want you to raise your hand.”

“Is it a type of butterfly?” a boy asked.

“I think it means shaking,” said another.

“In this book, ‘jitters’ is going to mean nervous,” Sebastian said. “If you have the jitters, it means you’re kind of nervous about something.”

Then she read the story, about someone named Sarah Jane Hartwell who refuses to get out of bed on the first day of school because she doesn’t want to go. She worries that she won’t have any friends. Her hands are cold and clammy. When she gets to school she feels sick, but the principal gently guides her to her new room and introduces her to the class.

It turns out Sarah – spoiler alert! – is a teacher.

“So what this tells you is, even teachers get nervous,” Sebastian said, smiling. “Even teachers have the jitters on the first day of school, so it’s OK for you to feel nervous or feel a little scared.”

A youngster named Jose, who had cried and held tight to his mother’s hand through the Pledge of Allegiance, was smiling by this time, listening to the story and chatting with classmates.

Sebastian said she felt more excited than nervous to start her teaching career. Not long ago, she was a student at Stanley Elementary. She graduated recently from Wichita State University.

“It’s great to be back here,” she said. “I had such great teachers here, and all through school. I was lucky.”

Preparing a substitute school

Students at College Hill Elementary will have a few more unexpected days of summer vacation, after a fire damaged much of that school building earlier this week.

District officials were busy Wednesday preparing the former Bryant Elementary School, 4702 W. Ninth St., as a temporary location for College Hill, which will start classes there Monday.

Julie Hedrick, director of facilities for Wichita schools, said other schools were spiffed up and ready to go for the first day, so she was able to divert many of the district’s cleaning and maintenance crews to Bryant.

On Wednesday workers loaded desks, chairs and bookshelves – most of them donated from other schools or part of the district’s excess – into the Bryant gymnasium while fresh wax dried on classroom floors.

Crews planned to begin loading furniture, computers, smart boards and other supplies into classrooms Thursday morning. The school is planning a Meet the Teacher Night at the temporary location Sunday.

“We want it to feel as normal as possible for the kids,” Hedrick said. “It’s not their home. It’s not where they’re used to going, so it’s not ideal. We would prefer to be at College Hill.

“But we will set it up so that it’s as functional as possible. … We want them to feel at home here and comfortable here, so we will do everything we can for that to happen.”

Bryant Core Knowledge Magnet signs and “Bryant Bulldogs” logos throughout the school will be painted over, Hedrick said, “so the College Hill folks feel like they are in a building that is theirs.”

Blue paws on hallway walls and floors will remain, however, because they can double as cougar paws, which is College Hill’s mascot.

“Everything won’t match and everything won’t be brand new, which is the down side,” Hedrick said. “But the positive side is how great our district has come together, and everyone’s responded to help the other teachers and principals and students that are in need.”

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