Kids are ready as school starts early at Sandy Hook

Brittany Foley finishes paperwork outside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Monday as her daughter Brayleigh, 3, rests on her shoulder during the first day of school for Shenandoah County Public Schools. Enrollment at Sandy Hook Elementary reached 931 students this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG — Although the first day of Sandy Hook Elementary School started a month earlier than it has in the past, Wanda Flynn said that her three grandchildren were all ready Monday.

“Actually, they were easy to get up this morning,” Flynn said. “I think they were very excited to go. Believe it or not, they were.”

The  students — Tanner Heflin, who is in third grade, Turner Heflin, a fourth-grader and Brady Heflin, in fifth grade–were all wired after the day ended. Their father, Mike Heflin, had to tell Brady to climb down a tree and said he was excited to see them “get out of the house and back to school.”

But Heflin said he was still disappointed by the decision to start the school year earlier.

“I don’t know why they did that,” Heflin said. “They should keep them out so they could have the whole summer, until after Labor Day. Should have let the kids enjoy their summer.”

Lori Schlenter, a paraprofessional at Sandy Hook Elementary School, comforts Caidyn Freeman, 4, as he struggles with his first day of school on Monday in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Tammy Dellinger, whose daughter Piper is starting second grade and whose son Cooper is entering kindergarten, said that her kids also seemed ready for the early start. She was mainly worried about Cooper’s teacher.

“I’m anxious to go in there and see if [Cooper] survived,” she said. Then she added, “See if his teacher survived.”

Dellinger said that both of her children are flexible, making the change easier.

“So long as I don’t make a big deal of something, they don’t make a big deal of something,” Dellinger said. “And I was surprised: my kindergartner (Cooper), he was eager and ready to go.”

When Cooper came to the doors of the school in the morning, Dellinger said, he was smiling.

Jacob Holbrook, 5, of Strasburg, uses his backpack to keep dry from the morning drizzle outside Sandy Hook Elementary School on the first day of school. Rich Cooley/Daily

“(He) didn’t even hug me goodbye, just walked right in,” Dellinger said. “So he was ready. Now, we’ll see what he looks like when I go in.”

After she picked her kids up, Dellinger said that Cooper had a great first day.

While her brother was looking forward to a new adventure, Piper was familiar with Sandy Hook and was looking forward to returning to the routine of going to school, Dellinger said.

“She loves school; she misses her friends, the friends that she sees in school,” Dellinger said. “So she was anxious to go back.”

Principal Robin Shrum said the experience of Dellinger’s and Heflin was a common one. Even with the earlier start, Shrum said, the children were ready to start the year.

Mark Johnston, left, Shenandoah County Public Schools superintendent and Linda Hodges, right, supervisor of human resources, greet Sandy Hook Elementary School students on the first day of school Monday morning in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I was worried that kids would be, like, ‘ugh,'” Shrum said. “But they were ready. They were happy. Teachers were happy to see the kids, and it feels like September.”

In fact, Shrum only pointed to one group that really wanted the school year to start later.

“I think the kids were ready, really,” Shrum said. “Parents may not have been ready, but kids were definitely ready.”

Sandy Hook Elementary kindergarten teacher Katie Shifflett kneels beside her new student, Irelis Polance, 5, while she completes paperwork outside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

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