First day of school exciting

South Whidbey Primary School principal Bernie Mahar greets eager students curbside on the first day of school. Marla Shelton
South Whidbey Primary School principal Bernie Mahar greets eager students curbside on the first day of school. Marla Shelton's dog, Jake, wearing a safety vest joined the crowd.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

Thursday was the first day of school.

Eager students with scrubbed faces, recent haricuts, new clothes and backpacks filled with new supplies poured through the doors of South Whidbey schools.

Nowhere was the eagerness more evident than at South Whidbey Primary School, where teachers and the principal greeted the students with hugs before guiding them to their classrooms.

It was difficult to tell who was more excited -- teachers or kids.

"I really look forward to this first day and seeing the kids for the first time since last year," said primary school Principal Bernie Mahar. "These are great kids."

Mahar, dressed in a new skirt and vest, said she always gets a new outfit for the first day of school.

"It's a tradition with me," said Mahar.

Also waiting to greet students at the primary school was Competent Kids Coordinator Marla Shelton with Jake, her Labrador dog, a favorite with many returning students. Wearing an orange safety vest, Jake was greeted with hugs around the neck and pats on the head as he waited patiently for each bus to unload.

At South Whidbey High School students began their first day 10 minutes earlier than last year. At 7:30 a.m. -- a time that did not promote as much eagerness in the high school students as with the younger students -- Principal Mike Johnson gave a welcoming speech before sending students off to experience the school's new class schedule.

Also new were several teachers at district schools. At the high school, Nancy Scoles -- known to many for her work at the Maxwelton Salmon Adventure -- joined the high school science department as a biology and astronomy teacher. She is filling a position vacated by Mike Crebbin.

Also at the high school, John Burbidge will teach English, Jennifer Sand part-time math and reading, and Jody Hill special education.

A familiar face to most of the school's students, physical education teacher Don Wills, moves from the intermediate school to teach at the high school this year.

Another new teacher is Leslie Woods, who will work half-time in special education and half-time teaching music at the primary school. Additionally, Susan Moore joins Marcia Statz on the school district's nursing staff.

The schools needed to be fully staffed the first day of school. The number of new students starting the first day is up from last year, which is good news for district administrators. The district's total enrollment figure on the first day of school was 2,263, more than expected.

"We are cautiously optimistic about the number," said district superintendent Martin Laster. "It is a positive trend and up from last year as of the first day."

First-day attendance at the primary school was 360, while 437 children showed up at the intermediate school. Langley Middle School welcomed 526 students, and South Whidbey High School had 772.

The district's smaller schools also had good numbers, with 55 students at Bayview High School and 113 at the Shared School ing Cooperative.

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