By John Burton
RED BANK – There was a sense of excitement and anticipation about the coming school year, shared by not only the students at St. James Elementary School but by faculty and administration as well.
The 30 Peters Place school held its first full day of the 2012-2013 school year on Tuesday with its 450 students settling into their classrooms and teachers beginning their lessons plans.
The first day of school for most area public schools was Thursday. Middletown Township schools are slated to open Monday, Sept. 10.
“I hope I’m ready,” said William Cardone, who is starting his second year as principal at St. James Elementary School.
“There’s a lot of preparation,” that goes on over the summer as the staff and administration formulate their plans for the school year, he said. “You hope you did everything you need to get ready.”
The sensation that we remember from childhood and area students are now feeling – that mix of anticipation, excitement, maybe a little trepidation and certainly a little bit of nerves – is not exclusively for students.
“We get it all, too … I think all of us look forward to the [summer] break but we’re always very excited to get back,” Cardone said.
“We’re excited about the kids. I look forward to being around the kids,” he said. “I enjoy it, from bell to bell.”
The start of the new school year is always exciting for fourth-grade teacher Kathleen Kelly. “I usually don’t sleep the night before, wondering if I’m ready,” she said. “I’m as nervous as the kids are.”
Vice Principal JoAnn Giordani works hard to ensure that the first day comes off without a hitch “because it makes a real impression,” on students, especially the younger or new ones.
“You always want to make sure they are where they ought to be and get home safely,” Giordano said.
As a sort of trial run, St. James held two half-day sessions during the last week of August; students in grades 5-8 came in on Wednesday, Aug. 29, and the younger children came in on Thursday, Aug. 30.
“eases everyone into it,” Giordano said. “It gets them feeling comfortable with the routine.”
The students arrived Tuesday, after the long Labor Day weekend, and seemed pretty ready, even the kindergartners. “They handled it beautifully,” Cardone said.
“The first day, they’re curious,” Giordano said. “We’ll see if they want to come back tomorrow.”
As the school year started Tuesday morning there were only two criers, Giordano said – one kindergarten pupil and one parent.
Taleen McOmber, a 4-year-old from Little Silver, certainly didn’t seem anywhere near tears as her father dropped her off for pre-K.
“This is her first day of full-day real school,” said her dad, R. Armen McOmber. The nervousness was “maybe more for me than her,” he said, admitting to a little bit of separation anxiety, as Taleen was ready to get the day off and running.
The full-day pre-K program starts a little later and ends a little earlier in the day than the other grades to allow for a more efficient system of drop-offs and pickups.
As Cardone watched the youngest students arrive, he observed how much he enjoyed this part of his job. “I don’t refer to it as going to work,” he said. “It’s going to school.”