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HCCSC school year starts

STUDENTS: Students at Horace Mann Elementary School in Huntington wait to load school busses for home on their first day of the 2019-2020 school year.

by James Ehle - jehle@chronicle-tribune.com

Students enrolled in Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) returned for classes on Wednesday for the official start of the 2019-2020 school year.

It was also Rief Gilg’s first school day as the school’s new principal. Although Gilg is a new face to many students, he’s excited to return to the school where he’s served roles as a football coach, dean of students, English teacher and more between 2003 and 2012.

“It’s a unique perspective when you can get out and see what other places are,” said Gilg. “There was always something very special about this place that always made me want to come back.”

Gilg was an administrator for East Noble and Dekalb high schools since he left HNHS. He says while he worked with great people at both schools, he missed the past connections he’d built during his time at Huntington North.

“In the short time I’ve been here the number of people that said ‘you taught my kid, you coached my kid’” Gilg said. “There’s just that connection with students, staff, and community that really coming home is always a good thing.”

More than 400 students make up the incoming freshman class, which Gilg believes shows the community’s interest in the school.

“It’s a big number, and I think it’s indicative of what our staff has done,” said Gilg. “I think the reputation of the school proceeds itself, and people want to be a part of it. I know I did, and I’m happy that other people see that too and want that for their kids.”

HNHS business teacher Chris Oswalt found humor and sympathy with the new students trying to find their way in the building.

HNHS has also seen a number of English as a Second Language (ESL) students in the incoming class. Even though he only has one class with a small portion of the freshman, Oswalt says on the first day of school, the freshmen are everybody’s kids.

“The whole team just comes together to get them where they need to go,” said Oswalt. “There’s kids with their maps out and their schedules out. It’s not a big building to us because we’re here every day, but it’s a huge building to these kids.”

One concern of many parents is the issue of safety, and Gilg addresses HNHS’s plan as a “fluid” ongoing process.

“It’s not something where you can just put a plan on paper and throw it down because things change constantly,” Gilg said. “Safety by design is always fluid. We’re always investigating. We’re always researching. We have safety specialists here. We have highly trained people. We are very in-tune with our security resource officer, so that is constantly evolving.

“While specifics change day-to-day, we’re always moving forward for the safety of our kids.”

Gilg strives to serve his students, parents and staff - all in the name of a pursuit of excellence for the school. When he addressed the student body he shared the school’s mission statement.

“We’re looking not only to build a bridge between what they are and what they’re going to be,” Gilg said. “But who they are and who they’re going to be.”