Nearly 40,000 students kick off busy first day of school

Superintendent Broskie welcomes children at Ridgeview Elementary

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/10/22

ORANGE PARK— The first day of school at Ridgeview Elementary saw students, like rockstars, greeted with cheerleaders, balloons and loud popular music.

The students funneled into classrooms …

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Nearly 40,000 students kick off busy first day of school

Superintendent Broskie welcomes children at Ridgeview Elementary

Posted

ORANGE PARK— The first day of school at Ridgeview Elementary saw students, like rockstars, greeted with cheerleaders, balloons and loud popular music.

The students funneled into classrooms figuring out where to go and saying goodbye to parents. A group of school district board members and district administration went classroom to classroom Wednesday morning.

Elementary school is all about fundamentals. Students need to learn how to sit still, get in line and how to speak up without interrupting. Useful things for later in life. Teacher Claire Scott does this for her kindergartners.

With a practice called “five-star listening,” she moves them from their desks to the front of the classrooms with cues. They are going to get used to it.

About 15 minutes later, teacher Christy Simmons was reading a “Pete the Cat” book. She stops mid-story to ask the students questions. The walls of her classroom are adorned with placards to remember numbers, spelling and to treat others with kindness.

Superintendent David Broskie said a traditional start to a school year is what employees deserved after the past few years, which demonstrated their resiliency.

"We are excited to welcome back almost 40,000 students to a new school year today,” he said. “(Employees) have been working hard over the summer and during pre-planning to launch the new school year.”

As for Ridgeview, the Title I school’s full capacity is about 600 students. Principal Heather Roche is in her fifth year as principal and 21st year overall in public education.

Roche said her team was optimistic for the school year and her main goals are keeping students safe, 90% attendance, academic achievement and building relationships.

“We’re looking forward to developing strong family and community relationships,” Roche said. “We have a lot of new teachers, so there’s a focus on climate and culture and building a strong team.”

The school still has heightened sanitation measures leftover from COVID-19, but Roche said this school year does offer a chance at normalcy. The balloons, cheerleaders and music are part of a weekly event the school aims to welcome students with each Friday.

“Our goal is to make Ridgeview Elementary a place students want to come to learn,” Roche said. “It is a return to normalcy. We want to give children what we would describe as a normal education experience.”

In Donna Ganas’ first grade class, she jokes she’ll know all first names by the end of the day. She gives students numbers and most of them memorize it early on. Ganas pauses and says she has something to show those on the classroom tour.

“Good morning Mrs. Ganas!” the students belted in unison.

At the end of the tour, most students were in classrooms except for a few stragglers, quiet after the hectic drop-off period. The school year concludes on May 26.

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