LITTLE FALLS — Lisa Reile read "Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon" by Patty Lovell to her new class of second-grade students Wednesday — the story of short, clumsy Molly Lou Melon with buckteeth and a voice like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor who is always told to walk proud by her grandmother.
After reading the book, Reile told her students the moral.
"Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it," she said.
It was "Day One" of the new school year at Benton Hall Academy. Principal Joseph Long said there were about 512 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade that started school Wednesday.
"Things went well," he said about the first day of school. "I stopped in most of the classrooms today … The kids are happy to be back. They had a good summer. It went very well."
Reile said much of the first day of school in her classroom was about learning the expected routine and "setting the tone" for the rest of the school year.
"We’re like a family — we have to be kind and loving. All of us were a little worried, but it’s normal to be worried," said Reile, noting she read a book to students earlier in the day called "Wemberly Worried."
"But as the day goes on, we’re happy to be here," she said.
Reile said students also worked on a project Wednesday where they had to "write down all the neat things about you; all the things that make you special and unique." The students’ answers will be used to make a flower on a door in Reile’s classroom that’s titled "I’m special because …"
"Did we have a great day? I thought today was a perfect day," said Reile to her students, after reading one of the stories.
Long noted some changes to Benton Hall this year, including the addition of Tracy Young as the school’s library media specialist, which will include more of a focus on technology at the school.
He also said the school has added another section of kindergarten to accommodate the large class size and welcomed Maria Lindsay as assistant principal and curriculum coordinator.
"[Lindsay] has been invaluable for helping our staff and our kids, and me, too," said Long.
The first day of school started for several Herkimer County schools on Wednesday. Some districts took to social media to document the first day, including the Herkimer Central School District’s @HerkimerCSD handle on Twitter. The tweets throughout the day included ones with the hashtag "OverheardInTheHalls" such as "Don’t touch the smart boards! They’re not a toy!" and "Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. If you do as you’ve been taught since kindergarten, you’ll be fine." They also offered advice for those having trouble with their locker, and a GIF of Chuck Norris giving a "thumbs up" with the caption "Welcome back everyone! Chuck Norris agrees, it’s going to be a great year! #firstdayofschool."
Central Valley Superintendent Richard Hughes tweeted out photos from throughout the district on Wednesday. One tweet included pictures from Harry M. Fisher Elementary School of students in the classroom and cafeteria, and pictures of displays in the hallway. The tweet stated "Off to a great start at Fisher on #firstdayofschool. First day of a thunderous year!!!"
Central Valley Academy Principal Richard Keeler said Wednesday the new school year is bringing new starts for the school including the kick-off of its new 1-to-1 device initiative. He said this effort will allow every student in grades 9 through 12 to be issued a Chromebook.
Also new this year is the start time for students. Instead of having an 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. schedule, students will have a 7:40 a.m. to 2:09 p.m. schedule. From 2:10 to 3 p.m., teachers will have office hours for students to catch up with teachers for any questions or concerns they have.
"This aligns with the district’s mission and vision for a more personalized learning environment," he said.
Keeler said students have Advanced Placement and College Advanced Placement options at the school, but students would have to pay this year for the College Now courses. The past two years, Herkimer County has offered to pay for it. He said if a student can’t pay the fee, however, they will still be able to sit in on the course.
"They just may not earn the credit," he said. "We don’t want to deny an opportunity to learn just because they can’t afford [the fee]."
Also new this year is a master schedule that allows for teachers to have a common planning period to provide teachers the opportunity to "align the curriculum."
Keeler said the first school day started with an assembly for the approximately 650 students in grades 9 through 12, where he introduced the faculty and staff for freshman and transfers.
"I spoke about the expectations we have at Central Valley," he said. "The big thing is not being complacent; to not be settling for just getting by."
Keeler said the school’s new initiatives are being paired with past efforts that have been in place at the school to help a student succeed after high school.
"We’re always looking to improve," he said. "… We want to do what’s best for the kids."