Area students are heading back to school this week with shiny new classrooms, brightly painted walls, and a full year of new friends and faces to enjoy.
Derry and Londonderry students kicked off the new year Tuesday with schools welcoming back students. At Pinkerton Academy, the incoming freshman class got its own day Monday with all students returning the following day.
Londonderry schools showed off shiny waxed hallways, colorful welcome posters in the halls and teachers checking off names while greeting students as many scurried off the bus on opening day.
That district's buildings got their usual summer share of upkeep and renovations to get ready for the new year.
At a recent school board meeting, Londonderry Building and Grounds Director Chuck Zappala said a lot was done this summer to ready the district's buildings. The summer to-do list included some major efforts like a fire alarm replacement at the high school, security upgrades, paving and parking lot maintenance, field improvements and energy saving efforts like installing LED lighting, modernizing refrigeration controls and upgrading some kitchen exhaust hood systems.
Another project topping the summer project list was continuing with the multi-year district-wide asbestos abatement effort, approved by voters at the polls in 2017.
Zappala said a lot of good work was accomplished.
"Not quite as busy as last summer, but we've had a lot of busy days," he said.
Derry's elementary schools opened their doors Monday morning for open houses, giving parents and their children a chance to stop by, seeing classrooms and meet teachers.
Grinnell Elementary School staff were welcoming families in new bright blue school shirts, and directing people to the right hallway and classroom.
Some students were new to the school, others returning for a final year.
Jaiden Mustone, 10, will be in the fifth grade at Grinnell. He said was excited.
"And I really like the playground and the food," he said.
Jaiden's mother, Ashley, said she was also impressed that each fifth-grade student in the district would be receiving Chrome books this year. She credited the schools' support for families and students.
"They are excellent with communication," she said.
To gear up and celebrate the new school year, Derry also honored its incoming teachers and staff with the annual rally at Pinkerton Academy last Friday afternoon. Teachers, administrators and staff in the district's seven schools gathered to celebrate the new year and pay tribute to those in the district doing great things.
Staff from the district’s elementary and middle schools wore their school colors and sat in solidarity in the large auditorium, cheering and clapping for their peers who were honored for various service and programs.
At Pinkerton Academy, high school classes started this week for the school's 205th year with its 3,000-plus students from official contracted sending towns and several other surrounding communities. Classes for all students officially began Aug. 27 with freshmen beginning with orientation the day before.
Pinkerton staff was busy over the summer improving the campus facilities and putting changes in place.
One major change, according to a welcome letter from Headmaster Dr. Timothy Powers, is that the school's main office has moved from the Shepard Building to the Bradford V. Ek Science Building. All visitors to campus will still be required to check in to the main office, get a visitor's pass and then be directed to their destination. There will also be marked visitor parking spaces near the new main office location.
"This change will allow us to better serve our visitors as they enter the campus," Powers said in his letter.
There are also some changes in classroom and office locations, Powers noted. He also pointed out the construction on the east side of campus for an access driveway from Tsienneto Road to the student parking areas.
"Progress has been very good this summer and the hope is to have it completed by the middle of October," he said. "This driveway will give us another entrance and exit for traffic before and after school as well as at events."