By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
andquot;Work hard,andquot; the voice extolled students over the loudspeaker. andquot;Be nice and have a great day.andquot;
The voice belonged to Brooklyn Elementary School principal Gary Timms, and his unseen audience was the kindergarten through sixth grade students who'd waited three months for their first day of school Tuesday.
Despite changes ranging from more crowded classrooms to the end of block scheduling at the high school, teachers, administrators, support staff and students alike worked hard Tuesday to make what is usually the most hectic day of the year run as smoothly as possible.
At the high school, members of the Student Council including president Nathan Defrees and Matt Hensley and Steve Stuchlich roamed the halls to help solve common first-day problems, from opening lockers for freshmen to pointing the way toward their next class.
andquot;We must have saved the lives of 20 or 30 kids already,andquot; Defrees joked.
Teachers and students alike were adapting to a seven-period schedule after seven years of block scheduling, Principal Jerry Peacock said.
andquot;It requires more organization and time management on everybody's part,andquot; he said. andquot;Students have to get back to the concept of preparing for seven classes every day. But we're all adaptable. It'll work.andquot;
Perhaps the most adaptable people Tuesday at the high school were the kitchen crew. Head cook LaDonna Uttenreuther, who came over from Churchill Elementary, helped serve up a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage and toast only there were no takers Tuesday morning. Students instead opted for a hot pretzel or a drink in the ala carte line.
andquot;Teen-agers are very picky eaters,andquot; said her fellow cook, Sheryl Payton.
andquot;I'm seeing teachers I used to feed lunch to,andquot; said Uttenreuther, a 24-year veteran cook, with a smile.
Counselor Steve Chambers said he wasn't fooled by one of the staples of the first day of school student whining.
andquot;The kids are excited to come back, even if they say they aren't,andquot; he said.
Middle school teachers took the divide-and-conquer approach for their first day. Only seventh-graders reported to school Tuesday, divided into seven groups, and then were shown the ropes with the help of some eighth grade andquot;ambassadors.andquot;
andquot;It's gone very smoothly, mostly because Joanie Kenworthy and Ramona Helgerson have this planned down to the minute,andquot; said school secretary Betty Austin.
The youngest middle schoolers learned important skills keeping their assignment books, and a little about the school's mediation process but they also had time for fun, including frisbee toss and a andquot;BMS Pictionaryandquot; game. The school picked up the tab for lunch.
andquot;It's a day when they're by themselves, when they can go around finding their classes without the eighth-graders,andquot; Principal Dave Giles said. andquot;Parents keep requesting we do this, so that's what we do.andquot;
South Baker Principal Pat Braswell has a three-point checklist for a successful first day of school.
andquot;The kids are taller, they're wearing new clothes, and their parents are very, very happy,andquot; he said. andquot;That's what we wanted.andquot;
The most noticeable change at each of the elementary schools was the presence of sixth graders, the first time they'd been away from Churchill in 14 years.
At Brooklyn, Brenda Payton was teaching her students the basics of writing an autobiography by telling her life story pictorially. Included was s depiction of the apartment building she lived in as a girl.
Students sat in rapt attention as she worked her magic on the overhead projector.
andquot;It seems like she and (fellow sixth-grade teacher) Rick Rembold were here all summer, setting up their classrooms,andquot; Timms said, standing outside Payton's classroom. andquot;Rick's been (teaching) I don't know how long. One of the dads this year requested him because he was his sixth-grade teacher.andquot;
Inside the teacher's lounge, the PTO had provided a cake for teachers and support staff, with andquot;School Rulesandquot; and a yellow school bus. PTO members had also purchased each school staffer a coupon good for a free beverage at a Baker City coffee house.
The perfect way to unwind after the first day of school.