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A new school year arrives with smiles and hugs

08/28/2017 11:01AM ● Published by J. Chambless

A hug from a favorite teacher at Chadds Ford Elementary School.

Gallery: First Day of School [18 Images] Click any image to expand.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

With a hint of autumn in the air, students across Chester County returned to classrooms and fall routines on Monday morning.

At Chadds Ford Elementary School, the mix of smiles and nervousness, new backpacks and shiny shoes was much the same as at every other school. For principal Shawn Dutkiewicz, welcoming the school's 350 students was a chance to make a good first impression and set the tone for the year. For the youngest students, meeting the school mascot at the front door for a hand slap or a hug was a friendly way to start the day. Others grinned as they leaped up for a high-five with band director Ken Miller when they got off the bus.

A few parents took quick photos of their children as they headed through the doors, while the school's drone hovered overhead for a high-tech overview of the first day of school. Crisp new outfits ranged from puffy dresses to a blue blazer – all of which got a smile and a compliment from Dutkiewicz or other staff members.

In the calm few minutes before the buses arrived, Dutkiewicz said that a “Sneak-a-Peek” open house held at the school on Aug. 24 did a lot to ease first-day jitters, as students could check out the hallways and classrooms and figure out where they were going. Parents, too, appreciated getting a chance to become familiar with the staff and routine.

“We did parent orientation at the same time as the students,” he said. “The kids and parents go in for Sneak-a-Peek, and a specialist brings the whole class to the cafeteria or the gym for an assembly program. The parents stayed in the classroom for the back-to-school orientation from the teachers at the same time. It's worked out really well for us. The families love it.”

For the coming days, “A lot of my first week is just visiting the classrooms, going to recess, spending time with the students,” Dutkiewicz said. “We have a really nice population of kids, with very, very few disciplinary issues. It's great to start another year with them.”

In an email sent to parents on Aug. 25, school district superintendent John Sanville welcomed families to the new school year. “The first day of school is special whether your student is 6 or 16, so enjoy every minute,” he wrote. “Take plenty of pictures, give kisses and hugs, and wave goodbye. We will take it from there.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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