Back To School AISD, PPISD, TISD
Within a week, Pilot Point ISD, Tioga ISD and Aubrey ISD reopened their doors and welcomed the students back into their halls.
Teachers greeted new students and connected with past students moving through the halls.
Administrators on the campus and district levels were constantly in motion to make sure the teachers and the students had everything they needed.
Some of the students and the parents dropping them off opted to wear masks across all three districts.
In Pilot Point, the full range of back-to-school emotions was visible on Aug. 12 when the Bearcats returned to school.
Sisters Avery Guy and Cammie Guy greeted pre-K teacher Ryann Balentine with a hug; Avery got to know her teacher because her big sister had her last year.
Balentine, who loves having the younger siblings of her former students, said she has “so many this year,” smiling wide as her students filtered into the classroom.
Cammie then walked through the Pilot Point Early Childhood Center halls with her mom, Melissa Guy, and her baby brother to kindergarten teacher J.J. Allen’s classroom.
“I’m excited that parents are allowed to come in, and we’re more free with things,” Allen said, expressing her hope for the year.
Melissa was grateful for the fun jungle theme of “Wild About Learning” throughout the Early Childhood Center and for the staff members who were ready to welcome them with open arms.
Some of the kids were a little hesitant about going into the classroom and tried to persuade their parents to keep giving goodbye hugs.
Classroom management was on full display throughout the center as the teachers got to know their students.
Carlee Williams, who is in her first year at both Pilot Point ISD and in public schools in general, shared things she likes with her kindergarten class while asking them to share what they like in a natural way.
“I want them to know who I am, I want to know who they are, that way we have that classroom family from the very first day and they feel safe coming in here,” she said.
Her teammate, Caitlin Gorman, brought her students to the carpet and had them play a rhythm-based ice-breaker game.
“We’re starting new traditions,” Principal Rae Ann Strittmatter said. “With our growth, I think it’s just going to be a perfect year for our little ones. We are already up 45 students from last year just in pre-K and K.”
At Pilot Point Elementary School, the teachers introduced the first through fifth graders to the expectations for the year as well as the new layout of the school itself.
For the fifth graders, this year marks a chance to be the big kids on campus.
“They have that glow of confidence as they’re walking down the hall,” fifth-grade reading teacher Amy Scott said. “They kind of seem like they know what they’re doing.”
Helping them understand what to expect for the year, Scott said, “sets the foundation” for a smooth school year.
“We work really hard at the beginning making sure they have a solid foundation, getting them settled,” she said.
Her neighbor across the hall, fifth-grade math teacher Barbara Mills, enjoys seeing the juxtaposition of the excitement the students feel at being the oldest kids on campus and at playing on the playground.
“They like our playground because we have swings,” she said.
Getting used to having small students on campus is an adjustment for Mills, and the teachers helped redirect some of the shorter pupils.
“There’s some that are little,” she said. “We had some come down this way, you could tell just by the fact that they’re little they’re on the wrong side of the school.”
Mills added that they’re hoping for a year that’s “as normal as possible.”
Tioga Elementary and Middle School Principal Jana Smith and her Assistant Principal Amy Hough said the first day of school for Tioga ISD, Monday, was a bright, shiny day in multiple ways. Both women said it was one of the smoothest first days they had experienced.
Tioga High School Principal Keith Kirkland had his first day with students on campus on Monday,
“It’s always great to have the kids back on campus,” Tioga High School Principal Keith Kirkland said. “Our teachers work really hard those couple of weeks that they come back without kids but getting the kids back on campus is always fun and exciting.”
He was complimentary of his students, too, who were respectful and enthusiastic about getting to start the school year altogether, he told the Tioga ISD trustees on Monday.
The weather shifted drastically for the Wednesday start in Aubrey ISD.
In Brittany Mulkey’s classroom, Monaco kindergartener Conner Valentine holds up his Play-Doh creation to his father, Gerry Valentine. He and his wife, Alison Valentine, said they and their son were excited to have the school year start.
Gerry, who has worked from home during the pandemic, was looking forward to having a quiet work environment.
“He’s super excited,” Gerry said. “He’s been talking about this for the last several months.”
Emily Pallister, who works in the school library, was happy about taking her kindergartener, Olivia, to class.
“Usually, for kindergarten years, it’s a sad thing,” she said. “This year, it’s fantastic.”
Her fellow kinder mom, Asper Heggwood, was feeling the sadness Pallister mentioned.
She worked to hold in her tears until she left the classroom.
“I guess the good thing about the rain is they can’t tell if it’s tears or rain drops,” she said.
Over in a classroom in the yellow hallway, second-grader Jovie Raffaele, who started online for the 2020-21 school year, was happy to start this year in person.
Her teacher, Victoria Norris, was thrilled to have the younger siblings of several past students.
“You already know the family; you’re comfortable with them,” she said. “You already know the parents, so it’s just easy. Just kind of falls in place.”
Across the hall, second-grade teacher Melanie Adamo described her “first-day jitters” about moving up a grade.
“It’s a brand-new grade for me as well,” she said. “So, it’s exciting that we get to experience that together. Makes me a little bit more relaxed, knowing we’re all in it together.”
She had several of her students from last year stay on her class roster, sprinkled in with some new faces.
“They’re already doing it this morning, helping new kids, new to the district,” Adamo said about her returning students falling into their regular routine. “They know the drills and routines, so I love that that’s instilled in them already, and we can just roll with it this year.”
Kennedy Vetten, whose daughter Layla Vetten has Adamo, said she’s both excited and nervous for her two oldest children to be in school.
“I work at Children’s in Plano, so I see a lot,” she said, adding “it’s stressful, but it’s going to be fun. It’ll be a good year.”
Monaco Principal Barbara Pitt greeted her kids by name and helped them find their classrooms.
“It feels like we just ended, and they moved up a grade,” she said.
Parent Teacher Organization President Jennifer Kelley, who is new to the role this year, was happy to be together.
“The students, the teachers and the parents all felt a tremendous disconnect,” she said. “… It’s been really cool to see everybody come together, and everybody is so much more excited.”
In downtown Aubrey, several groups of parents gathered to celebrate the start of the school year together.
Among them was school board member Jana Temple, who has done that with her friends for years to Upper Park after the first drop-off of the year.
“The rain kind of put a damper on things, but it’s a great start,” she said.