The morning clouds and rain didn’t dampen the spirits of either new or returning students as the y stepped off buses and out of cars, heading to West Parish Elementary School for their first day of class.
Some 360 students from first to fifth grade lined up by class on the basketball courts behind the elementary school, with bright, back-to-school clothing contrasting with the overcast skies. The morning rain let up as parents watched their kids head into the school for the first day.
“It was a fantastic year last year,” said Amber Gaumnitz, whose son, Mason, moved up from kindergarten last year to start first grade on Wednesday.
Mason, who stood in what was as close to a line as excited first-graders can make, said he could wait to meet his new classmates.
“(I want) to meet new friends,” Mason said, before running off to join the rest of his class, led by teacher Jodie Semas.
Gaumnitz said the elementary school’s teaching staff is excellent, and all care about their students.
But, she added, the building sometimes makes that difficult. Inside, West Parish looked weathered and worn. The district is in the process of a feasibility study with the Massachusetts School Building Authority for building a new school or renovating the current one.
“It’s challenging to have facilities that aren’t necessarily up to snuff,” Gaumnitz said, “but (the staff) does really good work.”
While it’s Gaumnitz’ second year, it will be the last year at West Parish for Yoshi Campbell and her daughter, Meriel Beyer. Meriel is in fifth grade.
“She’s really looking forward to fifth grade,” Campbell said, “and meeting old friends and new friends.”
Heather Adelfio walked her son, Stefano, up the sidewalk to West Parish yesterday. Stefano’s heading into first grade this year, and is in Mary Ann Goodhue’s classroom.
“I’m looking forward to being with my best friends,” Stefano said.
Adelfio added that, while she and Stefano are looking ahead to this year, she hopes the district will build a new building for the West Parish students as well.
“I hope so, I think it will be a good thing,” she said. “Things are getting a little run down.”
The students weren’t the only ones marking their first days of the new school year at West Parish Wednesday. Telena Imel, the new principal at West Parish, began her tenure in Gloucester as well, and spent the first hour helping the energetic group of students line up in the lot behind the school.
“It was a great start,” Imel said.
Imel, who takes over from former principal Jean Perry, worked in Amesbury as a curriculum director for six years before taking the job in West Parish.
Gloucester High School also began its new year with a new principal, Erik Anderson, formerly from the White Mountain Regional High School in New Hampshire, while East Gloucester Elementary has a new principal in Carol Bratt.
Imel said students won’t see much change this year. The school, however, has added an extra music class for kindergarten and first-grade students and an extra art class for fourth- and fifth-grade students.
Lisa Groleau, the school’s parent-teacher organization president, left West Parish after dropping her three kids off for their first day.
Her daughter, Rose, starts kindergarten this year. Her son Charlie heads into second grade, and her oldest, Sam, heads into fourth grade.
“(I’m) just looking forward to a great year,” said Groleau, “with great learning, great teachers — and great students.”
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenGDT