College Hill students hop on buses for commute to temporary school

College Hill Elementary School students line up to be bused Monday to the former Bryant school on the west side. (Aug. 19, 2013)
College Hill Elementary School students line up to be bused Monday to the former Bryant school on the west side. (Aug. 19, 2013) The Wichita Eagle

Pete the Cat had an important lesson for College Hill Elementary students Monday morning.

The cool black cat with the big droopy eyes – the main character in “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons,” which principal Kathleen Patterson read during an all-school assembly – put on his favorite shirt with the big, round, colorful buttons and sang a song: “My buttons, my buttons, my four groovy buttons.”

But – oh, no! One by one, Pete’s buttons pop off and roll away. Poor Pete is left with nothing but his belly button.

Does he cry? Goodness, no.

“I guess it simply goes to show, that stuff will come and stuff will go,” Patterson read. “But do we cry? Goodness, no. We keep on singing.”

She looked up from the book at the hundreds of kids and dozens of teachers who were finally starting their school year at the former Bryant Elementary after a fire damaged much of College Hill last week.

“All the stuff that we maybe don’t have right now? It’s OK, because guess what?” Patterson said. “We have each other, don’t we?”

Most College Hill students reported to their neighborhood school at First and Clifton by 8:20 a.m. Monday, in time to board seven buses bound for their temporary school at the former Bryant building near Ninth and West. School began at 9 a.m.

After the morning assembly, teachers guided students to their classrooms to unpack supplies, review procedures and start their year – three days later than the rest of the district.

Fourth-grader Leah Lawrie said the temporary school, which officials have coined “College Hill West,” is nice but different.

“It’s a lot more spread out, because our old school was two floors,” she said.

How will she and other students adjust?

“Most of the time, I just stay with my friends that I’ve known for a while, and they help me around the school,” Leah said.

For many students who normally walk or ride with their parents to school, the morning bus ride across town was a new adventure.

“It was fun and bumpy,” said Makyla Stewart, a first-grader.

College Hill’s before- and after-school latchkey program will continue to operate at First and Clifton. The school’s cafeteria and music rooms were not damaged in the fire and have space to house the programs.

College Hill’s pre-kindergarten program will move temporarily to Price-Harris Elementary, 706 N. Armour.

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