Local kids head back to school

September 7, 2011

For students, parents and the principal, an air of excitement and confidence filled the busy hallways of Westside Elementary School Tuesday morning.

It was the first day of school for elementary students in Hood River County School District, and scenes like the ones at Westside likely played out everywhere in the district. Horizon Christian School also started classes Tuesday.

Kindergartner Rylan Brennan led her father, Mark, down the hall when the bell rang.

"She was pretty eager. I guess I was surprised," said Mark Brennan, who accompanied Rylan to Gretchen Von Lubken's class. After a quick hug, Dad was out the door and Rylan sat down on the brightly colored gathering rug and looked around with a huge smile at her classmates, waiting for what was to come next.

In the library, Yair Lachino, a second-grader, waited for classes to begin by playing checkers with his friends Allen Trejo and Steven Toche.

"When I was in kindergarten I didn't know what to do," Yair said.

Now what do you know?

"Everything!"

Principal Ed Drew greeted everyone who walked down the hall, exchanging handshakes and hugs with current and former students.

Westside is a single school again, with the elimination of the dual-language Dos Mundos Charter Program after a three-year run within the Westside facility.

"That's the big change, and losing three classroom teachers," Drew said. "It means our class sizes will be a little bigger. We're looking at about 26 per room."

The school will have three portables this year, but their uses are mixed with only one serving as full-time classroom. One of the four portables on the grounds will be moved to May Street this fall.

"It's good to have the teachers and students inside the building; lots easier to keep in contact," Drew said.

The biggest smile of the morning might have been Drew's. Asked if he was excited for the new school year, he said, "Oh, yes. We've been at this since Aug. 1, without kids. It's no fun without the kids.

"Let's get them smiling and into the classroom and into the routine. It won't take long."

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