GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Thursday morning was foggy around Big Cross Elementary School. Families brought kids decked out in back-to-school outfits and fresh haircuts along neighborhood roads, to a neighborhood school – one of Glens Falls’ four elementary buildings, serving the city’s lower west wing. Thursday was the first day of the school year across the district.
The first day of school is an exciting day for anyone. It was even more so for one student, who had something more to celebrate than seeing his friends again.
“I’m turning 8 years old today,” said 2nd grader Jackson Houck – holding a box of Dunkin’ munchkins he brought to celebrate his birthday. “8 years old on the 8th,” his mom chimed in.
And what’s he looking forward to the most? After a moment of contemplation, the new second-grader had an answer.
“I get to go up there,” he said, pointing up to a higher floor of the school.
As a crowd of parents brought Big Cross’ roughly 220 students to their first day of class, the school’s staff worked hard to make sure they all found the right doors. In front of the old building’s big doors, Principal Debbie Hall stood, clipboard in hand, making sure every kid found their friends, and every parent could rest easy.
“We have a lot of new families, and we want to make sure they get to the right places, so we can start building those relationships now,” Hall said. “By the end of the first couple weeks, I like to make sure I know every student’s name, and put a face to their parents or guardians or family members as well.”
Some kids were joined by one parent, others by two. Some had a grandparent or older sibling escort them. Big Cross doesn’t haev any school buses, meaning everyone drives or walks – and many kids find their friends on the walk to school. Some came armed and ready for a photo op, with chalkboard signs declaring their names and grades.
Getting kids to school is a system of moving parts. With that many students walking, crossing guards have their own important work to do – and they take a day like Thursday with as much pride as anyone.
“I love the children. I love the parents, teachers – everyone,” said crossing guard Maria Edgington, holding her stop sign at the corner of Big Cross Street and 2nd Street. “It’s one big, happy family here, and it’s my job to keep everybody safe.”
Thursday was a common first day around the North Country, with districts like Lake George, Queensbury and South Glens Falls welcoming their own kids as well. Hudson Falls started its school year on Tuesday, and Warrensburg on Wednesday.
Returning students in New York are not required to wear COVID-19 face masks by state regulation this year. That decision has drawn raised eyebrows from some concerned with continued coronavirus spread, especially among children; but at Big Cross, the unmasked faces were a welcome sight for school staff.
“I think everyone’s excited to see the smiles on kids’ faces,” Hall said. “For two years, we’ve not been able to see that at the start. I think for us to see that, and to see parents smiling and taking pictures outside of the school – it’s been a couple years since we’ve been able to do this.”
And if a student is nervous to start a new year of school? Be it their first or fifth, the Principal has some advice.
“I’ve been a principal for 15 years, and in education for 28, and I still get nervous on the first day of school. So I let them know it’s a normal feeling, and that it’s expected, and that it’s excitement – being nervous means you’re excited.”