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Flint Springs welcomes new 'family'

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FILE: Flint Springs students fileinto the gym, Wednesday morning, to find their teachers and classmates for the year’s first “family meeting.”
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HANG: P.E. teacher Jo Ellen Earhart adds to the builletain board outside of the gym. When finished, her sign said “building a brighter future one block at a time” along with different cut-out blockswith school subjects written on them.
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SMILE: First grade teacher Carrie Boxell greeted her students with a Clifford puppet and name tags that were all ready to go.
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BENCH: Diana Sowers, a fifth grade teacher, explains how flexible seating will work in her classroom this year. She made the benches at one of the tables herself for kids who like to swing their legs while they sit.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

Summer break has come to a close for Huntington Community Schools, as yesterday kicked off the 2018-2019 school year.

This year has brought some changes to the corporation with due to redistricting as a result of Lancaster and Northwest Elementary Schools closing the doors and Horace Mann reopening.

With the shift of some students arriving at a new school to join others who are returning, Flint Springs Elementary School Principal Aimee Lunsford said she’s hoping to jump in and create a new family with her students, teachers and staff.

“I know we’ve got a lot of anxious hearts this morning, not just from students but also from teachers that made that transfer, so really we’re just focusing extra amounts on that family atmosphere and extending love and making sure everyone feels welcome,” she said. “Once we get that in place and everyone feels that at the core of who they are, the learning is just going explode.”

She added that Norm the Forester and their own Falcon mascot would be there to greet the kids to let them know how excited they all were to be together as a family again.

Rachelle Nightenhelser, a Flint Springs Kindergarten teacher, said she’s also looking forward to building relationships with her students. She said for the next several days she and her students will be working on how to become a family.

“One of the biggest things for me as a kindergarten teacher is when they come in, the first day and for the next several days we work on how to become a family so that when they enter this classroom, they know that this is a family -- it’s not just their classroom,” she said. “So we build relationships the whole beginning of the month that carries through the whole school year.”

Fifth grade teacher Diana Sowers said she’s excited to get to know her new group of students and watch them grow throughout the whole year. She added that through the family atmosphere she hopes to see kids grow socially, not only academically.

Sowers was at Flint Springs bright and early Wednesday morning in her room which she set up a little differently than in years past. This year, she ditched the traditional desks and is trying something called flexible seating.

“It is to meet the different learning styles within the classroom,” she said. “So I have had to change my mind-frame and got rid of the desks and came up with a variety of seats that kids can sit at that might work best for them. And they can rotate seats depending on projects or how they’re feeling that day.”

The seats around her classroom include exercise balls, rocking chairs, floor seats, floor mats -- even benches she crafted herself.

She added that she has been researching the idea for three years, and when she thought about having to set up big desks for 26 students in her room, she decided this was the year she was going to do it.

A lot of preparation goes into the school year. More so than others might think. Lunsford said it’s not only hours and hours, it’s months and months of planning. They actually start working on in February and March.

Nightenhelser said she will start coming into her classroom two weeks before school officially begins to prepare her classroom little by little.

Before students began arriving, teachers were bustling around the school adding last minute touches to their rooms, getting supplies ready, decorating the walls and bringing in things like “jitter juice” to their rooms. Some even wore shirts sporting well-known book characters such as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” 

To start off their day, Lunsford and the rest of the teachers and staff worked toward the family atmosphere by holding the year’s first “family meeting” with the students in the gym.

Upon arrival, students entered into the gym to find their teacher and to get acquainted with their fellow classmates.

They gym was full of chatter and movement as everyone put forth the effort to pull off a great start to the year.