Today’s first day of school isn’t quite as scary for students and parents who took advantage of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s open house programs.

Schmitt Elementary School was full of activity Monday night as staff members welcomed returning students and newcomers and their families, allowing students to step into the classrooms where they will be assigned this school year.

Schmitt and Southside elementary schools had open houses Monday, followed by similar events at other BCSC schools Tuesday night. The open houses allow students to meet their teachers before school begins and gives principals a chance to go over school procedures with parents and answer questions.

Schmitt Principal Brett Boezeman was highlighting information about student arrivals, transportation and recess with parents in a session in the school gym Monday night, including talking with some parents who were preparing to send their youngster off to school for the first time.

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Lars McCain and his wife, Amy, are sending their 5-year-old son Reid off to kindergarten this morning and attended the open house to help ease the transition into a new classroom experience at Schmitt.

The couple prepared their son by telling him that it will be very similar to preschool and will allow him to meet new teachers and make new friends, Lars McCain said.

Amy McCain also said she’s excited for what her son’s future holds but also noted she is sad in some ways as well.

“(Knowing) he’s growing up is a little bit bittersweet,” she said.

She also expects to be emotional during the first day of school this morning. “As we walk him into school, there will be a tear, I’m sure,” she said.

Nearby, Brittany Moore, a mom to three children, was filling out paperwork inside the classroom of kindergarten teacher Emma Jensen, who was interacting with parents and some of the 28 students she will teach this fall. Moore’s 5-year-old daughter, Brielle, will be among Jensen’s kindergarten students.

Moore said she is comforted by the fact that her 8-year-old daughter Zaidyn will be in third grade at the same school. She moved to Columbus from Mississippi last year for her job with FedEx, saying the transition to BCSC has been a contrast from schools in Mississippi.

“Where we’re from, there’s only one elementary school,” Moore said.

Billy Jo Parks, whose daughter Rayne will also start kindergarten, said she was a little nervous about sending her youngest of four children to school for the first time.

“It will be bittersweet, but she has to grow up,” she said.

Parents were asked to provide information about how their student will arrive and get home from school and also about their preferences as far as the name they go by, interests and other information teachers need to make youngsters feel comfortable in their new classroom environment.

Jensen was joined in her classroom by Michelle Bishop, a teacher’s assistant, who greeted students with a smile as children and their parents explored the classroom.

“They can expect a safe learning environment that is fun,” Bishop said.

Jensen, who is in her sixth year teaching kindergarten, said she tries to provide reassurance to families that that everything will be OK.

For many kindergarten students, it may be the first time they are away from their parents, Jensen said.

“I’m just going to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone,” Jensen said. “It’s all about providing the comfort to them.”

Kindergarten teacher Niki Deweese also said she was ready to start a new school year and to see the new kindergartners develop academically, socially and emotionally.

“I’m looking (forward) to see how much they grow,” she said.

Vincent Laine, a music teacher, sat outside his classroom greeting families, inviting students to strum his bass guitar.

“It’s so energizing to see the kids,” Laine said. “When I get to school, boom, they give me energy.”

Older students also had a chance to see how their school year would be different as they met with new teachers in their new grade level classrooms.

Third-grade teacher Kyle Olson, who is in his 19th year of teaching, said third grade is where students encounter a curriculum change that is a bigger challenge and brings about more changes in students by the end of the school year.

“They change quite a big from the beginning of third grade to the end,” he said.

The open houses are geared to make sure parents and students and comfortable about the opening day and to answer any questions families have about the school system, Boezeman said.

“Today is my second favorite day,” Boezeman said of Monday’s open house day. “My most favorite day is Wednesday when all the kids come back.”

Bus safety

School buses are back on the road this morning for the first day of school.

The Indiana State Police issued a reminder Monday to motorists about compliance with school bus stop arms and flashing lights.

  • When approaching a school bus, from any direction, when the school bus is stopped with its flashing red lights activated and its stop arm extended, motorists are required to stop, even on multiple lane highways.
  • Motorists who are on a highway that is divided by a barrier or unimproved median such as a concrete or cable barrier or grass median are required to stop only if they are traveling the same direction as the school bus. If there is no unimproved median or barrier, all lanes in all directions must stop.
  • Disregarding a school bus stop arm is a Class A infraction punishable by a maximum fine of up to $10,000.

How to contact a school

For more information or to contact individual schools in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., visit www.bcsc.k12.in.us.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com