The school year got off to a bittersweet start for Penns Valley Area High School seniors Sean Beamesderfer and Zach Auker.
It was the last first day of school for the two friends and their peers.
“It’s not like one of those things you can think, ‘Oh, there’s next year,’ ” Beamesderfer said. “It will probably really hit me after football season, so I think I want to work hard and make this year all about making memories.”
Penns Valley, Bald Eagle and Bellefonte area school districts welcomed students back Tuesday morning — each running fairly smoothly, but still working out the kinks.
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The Bellefonte Area School District sent a tip after school Tuesday that alerted residents that some school buses might be running late.
A spokeswoman in the transportation department said some buses were 15 to 20 minutes late because of “first day confusion.” She said the delay was normal for the first day, but other buses in the district were on time.
In Penns Valley, it was a “typical first day,” Penns Valley Area High School Assistant Principal Laura Tobias said.
“We had a few schedule problems and some students who couldn’t get their lockers open,” Tobias said. “By the end of the week, everything will work itself out. It always does.”
Advanced chemistry teacher Kim Heckman held a class introduction with a twist. She asked three students to volunteer in different experiments that tested students’ science knowledge.
When Beamesderfer sprinkled powder over a lit candle, the flame combusted for a second and then went back to its normal flame size. It was the same mechanism magicians use in their ball-of-fire tricks, Heckman said.
“You’re tall enough to move out of the way when the flame comes toward your face,” Heckman said, joking with Beamesderfer, a tall, slender wide receiver on the football team.
The class laughed, but Heckman stressed the importance of science safety.
Auker was the next volunteer who helped make a lighter-fuel cannon that made a “boom” sound when ignited.
The 17-year-old said he was taking a heavy course load of advanced classes to prepare him for a future as a physician’s assistant.
“The playground is my favorite part,” kindergartener Sarah Yearick, 5, said enthusiastically.
Her new friend Addelyn Fisher, 5, agreed.
“I can climb the little monkey bar with no boost,” Addelyn added.
The two are in Jayne Pillot’s class, in which they will learn the basics of reading and writing.
For Pillot, it’s going to be a special year. She has already announced her retirement for the end of the school year.
“It is bittersweet, but it’s been worth it,” Pillot said.
Wingate’s mission this week is to make sure its students are comfortably adjusted, said Principal James Orichowsky.
Bald Eagle has gone through some changes, including a security system that requires every adult entering the schools to sign in using a driver’s license. An administrator will scan the license, which will tell them if that person is on the state sex offender registry.
“Everyone was patient and understanding, and we had a good group of staff assisting people,” Orichowsky said. “This is all for the welfare of the students.”
Bellefonte Area School District also recommends that teachers keep their classroom doors closed and locked at all times in case of an active shooter or other emergency, Bellefonte Area Middle School Principal Sommer Garman said.
The school also goes through monthly fire and lockdown drills.
In its second year, the district also improving its Chinese language program by adding two Chinese scholars, Garman said.
But more than anything, teachers and students were excited for the start of school.
“We’re just as nervous as the students,” said sixth-grade teacher Mary Miltenberger. “It’s going to be a fun and exciting year, and we’re just looking forward to teaching and learning and having good leadership.”
Eighth-grader John Purnell, 13, urges his schoolmates to stay organized and not be afraid to ask questions.
“I’m excited, and feel a lot more confident coming into this year,” John said. “I guess if they stay on top of things, everything will be fine.”