The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

And the school bell rings...School back in session in Sidney

Students, teachers look forward to upcoming year


Ryan Hermens

Sidney School students board a bus outside North Elementary on Thursday as they embark toward the first day of class.

Waiting for a school bus to arrive to take them to the high school, a group of soon-to-be freshmen played a game of touch football in the schoolyard at North Elementary a quarter past seven Thursday morning.

The sun – rising above homes and trees standing just beyond a fence covered in foliage at the eastern edge of the pebble field – enveloped everything in sight with a warm yellow hue.

It was the final minutes of summer break and the young cohort was ensuring not even a moment was forfeited.

By 7:30 a.m., a teacher had directed the group to a gate at the north edge of field – where they joined a few dozen other classmates waiting for the bus.

As the yellow school bus approached – and with it, the new school year – conversations about summer adventures, new shoes and class schedules mixed.

Outside the front entrance to North, a parade of cars streamed by, stopping to drop students off. Some parents persuaded their children into posing for photographs at the front doors of the school.

"We do it every year," one parent appealed to their unenthusiastic child.

Inside, students played games in the library and ate breakfast in the cafeteria. Parents stopped by the office to ask questions or finalize paperwork.

In a neatly organized and tidy classroom, third-grade teacher Karen Clark made final preparations before the first bell rang.

In her 12th year of teaching, Clark said she enjoys the first day of school.

Teachers were back in schools beginning Monday, but with the arrival of students on Thursday, "now we're actually teaching," she said.

Laura Wellman, a fellow third-grade teacher, said she liked that school began on a Thursday this year.

It will allow her and the students to ease into the year, reviewing routines and expectations for two days before hitting the books in earnest on Monday, she explained.

A few miles away at Central Elementary School, Principal Brent Jeffers was getting ready for his 55th first day of school – including both those as a pupil and educator.

While he's taught children, nieces and nephews of former students before, this year marks the first he'll teach the grandson of a past student.

The school has an enrollment of a little more than 100 kindergarteners, divided into six classes.

North and South elementary schools' assistant principal Gene Russel said it's been a great start so far to the new school year.

"We have some veteran teachers back with us and some brand-new teachers right out of college," he said 20 minutes after classes had begun at South. "We're all looking forward to another fun and rewarding school year."

Just blocks away, Sidney Middle School Principal Brandon Ross was meeting with the seventh-grade girls, discussing rules and policies. Similar conversations were held with three other groups: the seventh-grade boys and the eighth-grade girls and boys.

Ross stressed the importance of not using cell phones during the day. He also addressed the use of social media – including Snapchat and Twitter.

"Be kind and don't say derogatory about classmates. It can be very hurtful," he said. "Be good kids, handle your phones appropriately."

The dress code was also addressed.

"We can make it simple: Make sure your shorts are long enough and your shirts cover you appropriately. Be good young ladies and be a little bit modest," he told the group of seventh grade girls.

The lunch routine, use of hall passes, make-up work responsibilities and locker policies were also covered.

A few hours into the school day, Sidney School District Superintendent Jay Ehler said the first day of school is always exciting.

Courtney Fletcher

Jaxson Hood-Russell says goodbye to his mom, Shauna Russell, on his first day of kindergarten.

"We go into education to work with kids and it's exciting to have them come back," he said. "I work all summer, so it's great to get the kids back and watch the teachers teach."

He is looking forward to the upcoming year, he added.

"Really, what I hope for at the start of every year is a fun, productive, safe environment, where learning is the priority."

A new addition to the district this year is cook Teresa Suarez. Meals for all Sidney schools are prepared at the high school and then transported to the individual buildings.

As of Thursday morning, she said everything was going well.

"But, we won't really know how we're doing until we start putting the chicken nuggets out," she added.

Staff writer Courtney Fletcher and publisher Rob Langrell also contributed to this story.


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