‘It went totally fine’: Stonewall Jackson’s eighth-graders find smooth sailing on opening day

Mya Councill, 13, of New Market, a Stonewall Jackson High School eighth-grade student, goes through the lunch line during the first day of school in Shenandoah County on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

School started smoothly on Monday for the 100 eighth-grade students who transferred from North Fork Middle School to Stonewall Jackson High School as part of the public school division’s move to address overcrowding this year.

The division decided to reconfigure classes after Ashby Lee Elementary School saw its student population rise to 802 students last year – 106.9 percent of its official 750 student capacity.

Superintendent Mark Johnston proposed moving Ashby Lee’s fifth-grade class to North Fork Middle School and North Fork’s eighth-graders to the high school.  The eighth-graders are now going to classes in the high school’s science wing, where they are kept separate from the older students.

One of those eighth-graders who made the move is 13-year-old Hunter Rinker, of Conicville.

“It went totally fine,” Hunter said of opening day.

Stonewall Jackson High School principal Mike Dorman, left, gives eighth-grade student Zander Jodrie, 13, of New Market, directions to his next class on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

He may be in a different building, but he is still with his friends. He sat with them at the lunch table on Monday, playing a game on his cellphone.

Hunter said he took advantage of basic training, a program the guidance department designed so the eighth-graders could start to familiarize themselves with Stonewall Jackson, their schedule, where they were going and what classes might be like.

Mya Councill, 13, of New Market, also went through basic training, which she said was helpful.

“And the teachers are really nice,” Mya said.

Mya is an athlete, playing basketball and volleyball, and participating in track this year.

Hunter Rinker, 13, of Conicville, shares a laugh with classmates during lunch at Stonewall Jackson High School on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We have our first volleyball scrimmage this week,” she said with a hint of excitement in her voice.

Stonewall Jackson High School Principal Mike Dorman said staff “wanted to make the first day easy.” Dorman noted that he really enjoys the first day back to school.

“I love getting the kids back in here; most grow 3 to 4 inches,” he said. “When I have a bad day, I come to lunch with kids. They are what it’s about.”

He spent the morning and well into the afternoon in the hallways and lunchroom talking to kids. A couple of students stopped him to ask about their schedules and where they needed to be.

Dorman said he knows the names already of a lot of the kids; he expects he will know them all by the end of the first semester.

“It is about relationship building,” he said.

Trent Presgraves, a senior at Stonewall Jackson High School, said he believes this will be an exciting year.

He was, however, unsure of what he is looking forward to in his last year of high school.

“Looking forward to seeing my smiling face,” Dorman said.

“Looking forward to seeing his smiling face,” Presgraves replied.

Staff members, such as principals, teachers and other school officials such as Superintendent Mark Johnston, were in the schools Monday morning to greet arriving students.

“I rode Bus 26,” Johnston said. “That went smoothly. A few kids missed buses, but they turned around and picked them up — that always happens every year. In the schools, I saw a lot of get-acquainted activities going on.

“Overall, it went very smooth,” he said.