School doors open wide for Greencastle-Antrim students

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Primary school students enjoyed their first recess of the 2012-13 school term.

Over 3,000 students walked through the doors on the Greencastle-Antrim School District campus on Aug. 27. In some buildings, the routine of a regular school day was planned. In others, special activities introduced the youngsters to what lay ahead for the next 180 days.

The first and second graders at the primary school went directly to their classrooms. The kindergarten classes start the week on a staggered schedule.

"It's a normal day," said principal Angela Singer on Monday. "It lets the kids just get acclimated. Friday is the first day all of the kindergartners will be here, so we'll have our welcome back assembly then."

She hoped the 700 students would grow individually, academically, socially and emotionally in 2012-13.

"We want school to be an enjoyable place for them to spend a major part of their day."

Elementary principal Chad Stover reviewed the rules and schedules with the third, fourth and fifth grade students. The 680 children at the assembly learned about expected behavior, recess and lunch policies, dismissal and bus lines. He wanted to build excitement for the year and help them understand not everything would necessarily come easy. If they worked hard they would grow and experience great things.

"I'm a big believer that motivation matters," said Stover. "If students come to school motivated, we can do the rest."

The middle school was a flurry of activity, with a morning assembly to introduce the 730 students to their social and academic expectations. Assistant principal Melissa Shuey said the three goals were to do your best, do the right thing and respect yourself and others.

The sixth graders received a tour of the building, especially the rooms without numbers.

"This physically orients them," said principal Mark Herman, as each homeroom visited the cafeteria, nurse's office, music rooms, Learning Resources Center, Student Services and other offices. A specialist at each location informed the students on what happened there during the day.

The seventh graders held a class meeting to determine how they would run their monthly class meetings. The eighth graders worked as homeroom teams in the gymnasium, accomplishing tasks during a scavenger hunt game.

An afternoon assembly resulted in many awards for many students, as PSSA achievements were recognized from last year's testing.

The out-of-the-ordinary opening day, according to Shuey, was "a kickoff to set the stage for a positive year. We want to create a warm and safe environment for kids."

At the high school, an extended homeroom allowed the 996 students to meet their teachers and get information necessary for the year. Class meetings for the seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen were held Monday or Tuesday.

Peer Leaders gave little welcome packets to new students and freshmen, as well as a tour of the building. They also guided them through the cafeteria procedure.

"The most anxious time is lunch for the first-timers," said principal Ed Rife. "This eases some of that tension."

The day had started off well, he said. "It's always exciting when we get the kids back in the building."

The entire district is participating in the Olweus Anti-Bullying Program for the third year, and the concepts were reviewed on the first day of school. It was adopted after a 2009 self-reporting survey which indicated G-A students bullied, or were victims of bullying, higher than the national average. Pennsylvania also enacted a statewide mandate to address the issue, which has gained national attention in recent years.

The G-A schools promote the ideals for healthy behavior at age appropriate levels throughout the year. The rules the students memorize are: We will not bully others, We will help students who are bullied, We will include students who are left out, and If we know that somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.