Day of firsts

When it came to what he was most looking forward to about returning to school Thursday, Putnam Elementary second-grader Owen Kirkham added to a familiar, often tongue-in-cheek list one more entry that’s sure to make his teacher smile.

“Lunch and recess and reading,” he said before entering the school for the first day of classes.

Kirkham and his brother and sister, third-graders Haden and Kamryn, were among more than 2,000 Marietta City Schools students kicking off the school year Thursday. Five of Washington County’s six school districts are now back in session, with Frontier Local Schools starting today and Warren Local classes resuming Monday.

First-grader Annabelle Whitacre said she was looking forward to class with her new teacher, who

she’d seen a few times at the pool over the summer. Her mother, Michelle, said the girl had been looking forward to Thursday for a while.

“She’s had a first-day outfit picked for a month,” Michelle said.

“I don’t know if that’s exciting news,” Annabelle said.

Another source of excitement for students was the addition of a new piece of playground equipment. Principal Jona Hall said students chose the large structure from among three options presented last year and it had been installed – but a replacement part has to arrive from Germany before children can begin climbing the contraption’s many bars and cables.

“What’s going to be sad today is when I have to make the announcement … that you can look at it but you can’t play on it,” she said.

Students weren’t the only ones excited about the first day of classes, Hall said.

“I’m super-pumped,” said the principal, beginning her third year at Putnam. “I finally am, like, truly comfortable. I know so many of the families now and the kids on a different level.”

Owen Kirkham’s mother Kristi brought a basket of apples and other treats for Putnam’s teachers as she dropped her children off Thursday.

“It’s just a welcome from the PTO for the teachers who are back to school, just some fuel for the day,” she said.

Thursday was the final first day of school for third-grade teacher Terry Futrell, who is retiring at the end of the year, her 19th at Putnam and 30th as a teacher.

“It’s pretty exciting, and scary,” she said. “I’ll miss all the kids. I’ve already told my teaching partner I’m going to come back and volunteer in her class all the time.”

Thursday was also the last first day – of high school – for Marietta High School senior Joshua Burke.

“Kind of sad but fun all at the same time,” he said. “This is the beginning of the end, really.”

Burke and his returning classmates found the school looking a little different than they left it. A nearly $600,000 renovation project connected the main building to the auditorium and gymnasium with an enclosed walkway and added space on the Davis Avenue side for additional classrooms.

While Burke found the new additions “still kind of iffy” from an aesthetic standpoint, “I find they’re kind of needed,” he said.

Once the new classrooms are finished, which isn’t expected to happen until the second semester, students will be able to spend the school day under one roof, since classes will no longer need to be held in the nearby administration building. That will allow the school to lock its doors during the day and prevent students from missing classes if the school went on lockdown while they were in the other building.

Freshman Roxanne Hardman said she enjoyed her first day of high school.

“It was awesome. The teachers are really nice and very helpful,” she said. “They want to get to know us.”

Fort Frye Local Schools began classes last week, while Belpre City Schools started Tuesday. The only schools in the county to start on the same day this year were Wolf Creek Local and the Washington County Career Center on Wednesday. Wood County Schools also started Thursday.

The career center welcomed more than 300 juniors and first-year students from around the county, with seniors joining them Thursday.

“We’re anticipating over 500 students once everybody’s here,” said career center secondary director Mike Elliott, noting that’s the largest enrollment they’ve seen in years. “I think more students are taking a second look at what we’re offering and realizing they can still be part of their home school.”

Some classrooms had to be rearranged and new lunch tables ordered to accommodate the larger numbers.

A smooth first day was enjoyed at Waterford Elementary School, Principal Doug Baldwin said. Teachers once again greeted students by literally rolling out a red carpet for them Wednesday.

“Our kids came in ready to learn, and teachers were eager to get started,” Baldwin said.

The community has been dealing with a water-boil advisory, but Waterford High School Principal Randy Shrider said it “practically hasn’t” had an impact on the school.

Since students can’t drink the water, “we’re providing big water coolers with ice,” he said. “And it’s been hot. They’ve needed water.”

Otherwise, the start of school there has been typical and uneventful, which suits Shrider fine.

Frontier Local students will have just one day of classes – today – before the first weekend of their school year. It may seem unusual, but Superintendent Bruce Kidder said he doesn’t think it will throw students off.

“That doesn’t bother me because a lot of the first day is organizational,” he said. “We’ll get kids settled in.”