Fort Frye opens

BEVERLY – Some Fort Frye Local Schools students on Thursday chose to look at the glass as half full when it came to being the first district in Washington County to resume classes.

“It’s nice because we’re also the first ones out of school,” said Salem-Liberty Elementary sixth-grader Jack McElroy, who attends church in Caldwell, where classes start for Caldwell Exempted Village on Monday and for Noble Local Schools on Sept. 3. “Most of my friends there don’t get out until a week after us.”

That trade-off, and the prospect of seeing old friends, meeting new teachers and finally starting that senior year, helped create a positive atmosphere as Fort Frye Local went back to school Thursday, according to students, teachers and administrators.

“We’re excited to see the kids come back for another year,” said second-year Beverly-Center Elementary Principal Megan Miller. “It’s been a very smooth first day. The kids are excited to be back, the staff is excited to be back, and everything (is going) very well.”

Fort Frye opted for an earlier start time two years ago, in part to allow the first semester of the school year to be completed before Christmas break, said Fort Frye High School Principal Susan Rauch.

“The kids are done at Christmastime instead of having to come back and study for exams,” she said. “You come back and start fresh in January.”

Each of the six school districts located entirely or primarily in Washington County are starting on different days this year, slightly different from years past, when two or three or more would begin classes on the same day. The Washington County Career Center, which draws students from all six districts, starts its classes Wednesday, which means Fort Frye students there start a few days after their peers, while Frontier Local, Marietta City and Warren Local students start a day or more earlier.

“Our calendars do not always match up exactly,” said Mike Elliott, secondary director at the career center. “All of our breaks – they’re very similar, but they’re not always exactly the same, very rarely.”

Senior Natalie Smith wasn’t too worried about when everybody else was starting because she knew Thursday was her last first day of high school.

“I already have senior-itis,” she laughed. “It’s great to see everyone again, but I’m definitely ready to get out.”

The day was different from years past for junior Destiny Schob. A number of her classmates, while still technically Cadets, were missing, having chosen to pursue other educational avenues.

“I guess it was a little weird ’cause half my class went to the career center, PSEO,” she said, referring to the post-secondary enrollment option where students can take classes and earn credit at Washington State Community College.

Schob and some of her classmates seemed to like a change in school policy that allowed them to have their cell phones out when in the hallway or study hall.

Back at Salem-Liberty, Ericka Schneider, who teaches fourth-grade language arts and intermediate math, said she had her doubts about how smoothly the first day would go with the weather outside warm but not sweltering – the kind of weather many kids would rather be out playing in than seeing from inside a classroom.

“It’s a summer day and it’s so nice, I was just kind of worried about keeping their attention,” she said. But by recess on Thursday she said, “They’ve been positive and they’ve been focused.”

Schneider said the start of school is a special occasion for teachers as well as students.

“I’ve taught now for over 10 years, and I still get excited for the first day,” she said.

She also had something in common with some students, according to her daughter Olivia, a fifth-grader.

“Mom couldn’t get up either,” she said, as Schneider laughed and agreed it wasn’t easy to transition to an earlier wake-up time.

Some of Olivia Schneider’s classmates said their teachers – including her mom – were among the main reasons they were happy Thursday, even if their summer vacation was officially over.

“They really are nice and helpful and stuff,” said fifth-grader Chloe Tornes. “They rock.”

“They’re the best teachers in the world,” added fellow fifth-grader Sara McElroy, Jack’s sister.