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Valley News Dispatch

Burrell students catch extra winks with later start times for new school year

Emily Balser
| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, 11:36 a.m.
Huntley Wilhelm, 5, waits with his mother, Nikki Wilhelm, outside Bon Air Elementary School in Lower Burrell to start his first day of kindergarten (with his Spiderman lunch box) on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Huntley Wilhelm, 5, waits with his mother, Nikki Wilhelm, outside Bon Air Elementary School in Lower Burrell to start his first day of kindergarten (with his Spiderman lunch box) on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.
Burrell teacher Suzanna Hathaway high fives Kerrigan Nanni as she arrives at Bon Air Elementary School in Lower Burrell for her first day of third grade on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Burrell teacher Suzanna Hathaway high fives Kerrigan Nanni as she arrives at Bon Air Elementary School in Lower Burrell for her first day of third grade on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.

For the first time in his high school career, Burrell High School senior Zack Duncan got to sleep in an extra hour for his first day of school.

The high school shifted the start of classes 25 minutes later this year to give students extra time in the morning. This was also the first year he could drive to school.

“I usually woke up at 6 and, now, I wake up at 7,” he said. “I’m ready for school to start.”

Duncan, 18, and about 1,800 other Burrell students started classes Wednesday.

The Burrell students and their peers at Apollo-Ridge School District were the first public school students to start classes in the Alle-Kiski Valley this year. Other districts will follow in the next week, with all students back to their classrooms by Aug. 30.

In Burrell, the morning was filled with emotions, from high school seniors eager to be one step closer to graduation, to kindergarten students cautiously letting go of their parents’ hands and walking into their first real classroom.

Sophomores Evvy Blatstein and Kira Johnson, both 15, walked into school together. They said they only got an extra 10 minutes of sleep, but were still happy to have any extra rest.

“It’s definitely better,” Blatstein said.

Sophomore Sydney Pollick, 16, said she wasn’t able to take advantage of the extra time on the first day, but anticipates it coming in handy later this year.

“Not today but, toward the end of the year, I won’t wake up until later,” she said.

Pollick said she was excited to see her friends but still had some apprehension about meeting new teachers.

“I’m not going to lie — I’m kind of nervous,” she said.

For many of the elementary students, the parents shared the anticipation of what is to come.

“I think I’m more nervous than he is,” said Kathy Lewandowski of her son, Leroy, 6, who is starting first grade. “We got everything out the night before to get ready.”

Leroy happily played on the school steps while they waited to go in.

“(I’m) nervous, anxious,” said Alyssa Eckman, who was sending her first child, Maddox, 5, to kindergarten.

Her husband, Patrick Eckman, said they tried to soak up as much time together as possible before school started.

“We just played and did everything we possibly could over the weekend,” he said.

Carson Gates, 7, was heading into second grade and said he was excited to make new friends this year.

Enthusiastic teachers and principals did their best to make the students and parents feel at ease, greeting everyone as they walked into school.

“We’re super excited,” said Amy Lenart, principal at Bon Air Elementary. “We worked all summer to get the building ready.”

Lenart said the school tries to make sure they have plenty of teachers and PTA volunteers on hand to help guide students into school and make sure they get to their classrooms.

“It’s really just about having smiling faces in the hallways,” she said.

Apollo-Ridge students also headed back to class Wednesday.

Superintendent Matt Curci said the day went well. He said a big part of preparing their students for the first day is having open houses at each school the day before.

“Students are able to see all of their teachers, find their way to their classrooms, and learn any information they need ahead of time, which reduces some anxiety,” he said. “We always have plenty of staff around the halls and at the entry for students who may not be sure where they are going, especially for elementary arrival and some of our youngest students.”

Curci said he is glad to have everyone back on campus for another school year.

“We are really blessed with great kids so, even if they were tired, they still put on a smile and said ‘Good morning,’” he said. “Students and staff seemed to all get into the routine really quickly.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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