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Students return to friends, books, dreaded homework

Lori Hood, of Mt. Jackson, gets a quick photo of Megan, 5, outside Ashby Lee Elementary School on Tuesday as she starts her first day of kindergarten. Rich Cooley/Daily

Mark Pestilli gives his daughter Gracie, 4, a pep talk on her first day of preschool on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Breanna Franklin, 4, of Quicksburg, gets reassured by Sandy Randolph, her preschool teacher at Ashby Lee Elementary School, on the first day of school for Shenandoah County students on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Breanna Franklin, 4, of Quicksburg, is reassured by Sandy Randolph, her preschool teacher at Ashby-Lee Elementary School. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- With one word, summer officially ends -- "homework."

Shenandoah County Public Schools became the last Northern Shenandoah Valley school division to open its doors to pupils Tuesday. Attendance numbers will not be available until this morning.

"This [opening] has definitely been easiest of all," third-year Superintendent Keith Rowland said Tuesday afternoon. "There were no major issues with transportation. Last year, we changed some routes to save money and that created some problems for us. This year, there were no major changes to that.

"It's just been a great day."

The best part, according to Reilly Hughes, a third-grader at Ashby-Lee Elementary School, is that one word that signifies summer's end. It was an interesting answer coming from such a young pupil, but he quickly explained it and it made complete sense.

"There's not very much homework at all," Reilly said.

Chris Williams, a fourth-grader, had the same answer as to what makes the first day nice.

"You don't really have a lot of homework," he said.

His younger brother, Ben, a kindergartner, did not mention homework, which was no surprise. It was his initial first day of school and, as his mother and grandmother picked him up, he stated that he liked it for other reasons.

"I didn't even get in trouble once," Ben said.

At Ashby-Lee there were tears to start the day and hugs to end it -- no surprises there, either. Reilly's mother, Berlinda Hughes, can circle at least one day a year when she knows the tears will flow. She picked up Reilly and his first-grade brother, Brady, Tuesday.

"It's exceptionally sad," she said. "It's hard for me. I like them when they're with me. But I trust the school."

Hughes may just need more experience, like what Julie Sherrill has. She has six children and was picking up two grandchildren -- Hannah, a kindergartner, and Hayley, a fourth-grader -- on Tuesday.

"We have definitely been through first day of school," said Sherrill, who received a hug from Hannah. "It's always exciting. It's a little bit sad that first day, too, but exciting still."

Hannah said she would come back for a second day.

Teachers, too, have to get through the first day. Reading specialist B.J. Goodier and third-grade teacher Cheryl Shifflett said teachers enjoy being back, but are also usually "spent" after day one.

"Every year [pupils] come with the same energy and excitement," Goodier said. "They're ready to go."

Shifflett said: "Trying to establish a routine for the remainder of the school year is very hard to do. And they're not ready to get into a routine on the first day."

But, there is always a bright side to things.

"The second day is a little calmer," Goodier said.

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