Fresh start for all as classes resume in Alachua County


Maria Herrera shares a moment with her son, Santiago Layton, 7, before he goes to his first-grade class on the first day back to school at J.J. Finley Elementary School in Gainesville on Monday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.

With a new denim dress and a manicure in three shades of purple, Myah Stanley was ready to go.

The third-grader at J.J. Finley Elementary School arrived in Trudy Bingham's class early for the first day, escorted by her father, Jeremiah Stanley, and her stepmother, Meredith Stanley.



The Stanleys made the morning special for their daughter with Funfetti pancakes, "with sprinkles," Myah interjected, and apples.

"It's pretty exciting," Jeremiah Stanley said of the first day of school.

Myah and about 25,000 other Alachua County public school students started classes Monday, according to the district's initial head count.

They arrived by foot, by bike, by car and by bus to the district's 24 elementary schools, seven middle schools, seven high schools and numerous learning centers and charters.

In a way, this year is a fresh start for everyone.

Like always, students arrived at school Monday to start a year of new subjects.

But teachers also are starting over. This year, all grade levels will adhere to the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards outlining learning expectations at each level.

The standards also represent a new way of teaching, which teachers prepared for all summer in workshops.

But Monday was mostly about getting students where they needed to go.

Even before the sun was up, clumps of students, some accompanied by adults, stood yawning at the entrances to neighborhoods, waiting for a yellow bus to pick them up.

Parents escorted some of the youngest children to their classrooms in the elementary schools, getting them settled at their desks for the beginning of the day at 7:45 a.m.

In Myah's class, Mrs. Bingham welcomed her pupils by asking if they wanted a handshake, high-five, hug or fist-bump, while classroom intern Abby Knabb waited to show them to the cloakroom.

Parents stayed clustered in the hallways after the bell rang to signal the start of the day, catching up with each other, and maybe a little nervous to leave their young students for the first time.

By middle school, most parents are more hands-off.

A long line of cars snaked through the roundabout in front of Howard Bishop Middle School, with fidgety preteens trying to escape the passenger seats without too much fanfare.

To keep the first-day raucousness to a minimum, teachers corralled students to a paved courtyard at the center of the school called the mall.

"So far, so good," said seventh-grade reading teacher Stacie Corbett, just before first bell. "It's been smooth sailing."

David Ray, 11, hopped a school bus from Waldo with a handful of friends to get to Howard Bishop for the first day of sixth grade.

He felt "pretty happy — new teachers, new classmates," he said.

At Newberry High School, it was Kevin Purvis' third first day — he started Monday as principal of the school he graduated from and where he later started his career teaching.

While Purvis experienced a homecoming, seniors commemorated the beginning of the end by wearing royal blue T-shirts that read, "It's my last first day."

The Class of 2014, numbering about 150 this year, put up banners in the hallways of the school last week to get in the spirit.

Some seniors are ready to be done, such as friends Brittany Denning, 17, and Ashley McGriff, 18.

They weren't planning to celebrate Monday night — "I have homework on the first day, unfortunately," Ashley said.

Brittany said she already has a case of senioritis, but she's going to work hard and plans to go on to college.

"I don't want to grow up, but I do," she said.

Kendall Addison, 17, spent her entire public school career in a one-mile radius of Newberry High. She started at Newberry Elementary, attended Oak View Middle and followed Mr. Purvis to Newberry High, where she has been a cheerleader since her freshman year.

She said she wants to leave Alachua County for college, which she hopes to accomplish by getting a soccer scholarship from another Florida school.

Although she's ready to blow through this year, Kendall said she's also a little nervous.

"It is kind of sad to be leaving," she said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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