CECIL COUNTY — The first day of school called thousands back to the halls of Cecil County Public Schools on Tuesday to begin the new year.
Colorful chalk drawings and inspirational messages decorated the walkway to one of the entrances of Chesapeake City Elementary School.
Judy Jacobsen waited with her granddaughter, Rylee Nuscheler, along the walkway as the 4-year-old prepared for pre-K.
Jacobsen, who worked as a kindergarten teacher in New York state for 35 years, said she’s probably looking forward to the start of the school year more than Nuscheler.
“I think I’m more excited than she is,” she said of the quiet child.
Jacobsen admitted that she’s also a little nervous to be away from her granddaughter, but she’s trying to keep her courage.
“I’m being brave,” she said.
With students and families working through their nerves on the first day of school, Principal Sherri Isaac said that she will be experiencing those feelings right by their side as she, too, will be entering her first school year as a new principal.
“I have been telling the kids this is my first day here too, so we’re going to get to know everyone together,” she said. “We’ll work through everything together in getting to know the building and the staff and the kids. We’re all experiencing the first day jitters together.”
Isaac said the first day was off to a good start.
“Everyone came in happy and ready for school,” she said. “Our staff is ready to welcome them back and have a great year.”
Melissa Hunt was camped out with the rest of her family to send off her granddaughter, 5-year-old Alanaah Hunt, to her first day of kindergarten once she arrived at the school with her mother.
Alanaah had a simple but bright outlook for this school year.
“It’s great,” said Alannah, who added that she is most looking forward to drawing.
Like Jacobsen, Melissa said the first day of school came with a mix of emotions for her as a grandmother.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “You love to see them hit those milestones and watch them grow, but you miss those baby stages.”
Melissa remembered when her own children — Alanaah’s father and his sister — were attending CCES. Now, it seems like they grew up in the blink of an eye.
“It isn’t a minute before that step (elementary school) to fully grown. That’s how fast it goes,” she said.
Christina Robusto was seeing off her daughter, Gabriella Robusto, on her first day of second grade.
Standing outside of the elementary school, Gabriella seemed to want to be anywhere but there.
“I don’t want to go to school,” she said. “I want to have the weekend for my whole entire life.”
But Christina chalked it up to first-day-of-school nerves, saying that at home her daughter has been looking forward to going back to school.
“She’s been very excited, actually, to come in and see who’s in her class and her new teacher and everything,” she said.
Christina said while watching Gabriella go off to school has been hard, her daughter has taken it in stride as the independent girl she is.
“It’s pretty emotional and hard,” she said. “But she’s always been one to be like ‘See you, Mom.’”
As if on command, Gabriella marched with her friend into the building with a last-minute “Goodbye, Mom.”
“I’m proud of you,” Christina called after her.
Meanwhile, Kerissa Anderson saw her youngest child off to kindergarten — the last of her three kids to attend the elementary school.
“She’s my third, so I feel like an empty-nester,” Kerissa said. “But it’s nice. She’s excited, so I’m excited that she’s excited.”
Kerissa said she was comforted to know that her children would be overseen by the staff members at CCES.
“With the school they go to, the faculty is amazing so I always know they’re in good hands when they go in,” she said.
Cecil County Public Schools will be building a new Chesapeake City Elementary School building next to the Bohemia Manor middle and high school complex further south along Augustine Herman Highway. The building is expected to be completed in time for the 2021-22 school year.
Kerissa was glad that her daughter Victoria would be starting kindergarten in this building after Victoria’s siblings, Savannah and Bryant, who are in third and fourth grade, respectively, have had the chance to spend a few years at the school.
“I’m excited she can actually start school here,” she said. “I had all three kids start here and there’s so much history with the school … But I’m also excited for the new building, especially for the faculty because it’s well-deserved. I’m excited for the new technology and everything they’ll have.”
Meanwhile, 12 miles away at Cherry Hill Middle School some 420 students filed in, greeted by the school's cougar mascot and Sgt. Todd Creek, the Cecil County Sheriff's deputy in charge of the School Resource Officers program.
Principal Ann Little said that the theme this year for students and staff is kindness.
"With all the tragedies in the world, we need to get back to the basics," Little said as she decorated the entry of the school on Singerly Road near Elkton. "I'm not talking the basics of academics. We need to be nice."
Katie Jowett was all smiles as she arrived for the start of her eighth grade year.
"I'm kind of excited to be back," Jowett, 13, said. "I was home-schooled last year. I'm looking forward to making new friends."
Danielle Kinsler admitted she did not share Jowett's enthusiasm.
"I don't want to be here," Kinsler said.
While she was glad to see Jowett, Zariah Garnett is already dreading one part of the upcoming school year.
"I am not looking forward to the science fair," the eighth grader from Elkton said.
New to Cherry Hill Middle School, Tyler Ham arrived on his bicycle eager to see how this year compares to his elementary school past.
"It's probably going to be a lot different," Ham, 11, said.
He worries most about changing classes. He fears being late and acknowledged he may need some help.
"I'm not used to analog clocks," he said.
His biggest fear?
"Me failing," Ham said. Still he was ready to immerse himself.
"I am going to try to do everything," he said.
Principal Ted Boyer stood in front of Perryville High School on Tuesday morning, as predominantly sleepy-eyed students streamed by him, and he enthusiastically greeted everyone within earshot.
“First day of school, best day of the year,” he said frequently, sounding like a motivational speaker or a low-key football coach giving a halftime pep talk.
His smile ever present, Boyer shook hands with as many pupils as he could and welcomed them to their first day of school.
“C'mon, bring that first day energy,” he urged cheerfully.
Sometimes, he simply said, “How ya doin?”
Most of those teens had never met Boyer, who is the new principal at Perryville High, which has approximately 800 students.
First impressions are important, according to Boyer, who noted, “They don't know me.” Boyer's playful rallying clearly brought smiles to several faces and likely eased any apprehension felt by freshmen making their way into the school.
With the 180-day academic year stretching far in front to them, most of the students told the Cecil Whig that they were ready for classes, homework, quizzes, chemistry labs, tests and so forth.
“I'm happy to be back,” said Amare Brown, a 16-year-old junior. “I like the social part of school and the classes, they're OK.”
Michael Kelly, a 15-year-old sophomore, said, “I had a pretty good summer, but I like my classes, too.”