Following months of planning and preparation, excited anticipation gave way Monday to hopeful reality as a community stepped into the first day of the 2018-2019 school year in the Killeen Independent School District.

West Ward Elementary School Principal Maureen Adams pulled into the parking lot at 6 in the morning to find teachers and students with family members already arriving.

Entering her 19th year as principal, Adams said the nervous excitement of the first day never fades. “We don’t sleep the night before,” she said as teachers welcomed students to classrooms and the front office buzzed with activity.

“You can’t help but catch the excitement,” she said. “The teachers are as excited to get started as the kids are.”

West Ward first-grade teacher Alicia Langdon welcomed each of her students into her bright-colored classroom. Children worked on self-portraits and their teacher introduced them to “Fergie” and “Sammy,” the animal pillows in the reading area.

“The first day is about getting them used to me,” the teacher said. “I’m introducing them to the room and showing them where to put supplies. They are making self-portraits to show how they feel about themselves.”

Across town the first seniors in KISD’s Early College High School found their way to their classrooms in Eagle Hall of the Central Texas College campus. The 171 trailblazing seniors tackling high school and college simultaneously are building a new tradition.

“As a senior, I feel so accomplished,” said Desiree Allman, who has been at the Early College since its beginning. “All the hard work, the stress, the tests are paying off. It’s exciting.”

“It’s fun to be a senior,” said John Hood, IV, “the oldest in the school. I like all the college classes. It’s exciting to get things rolling.”

Early College Principal Kathleen Burke praised the seniors for leading the way in a new concept for this area. She said they voted on many of the electives they take and are going to be designing the school’s graduation cap and gown.

“It’s very exciting,” Burke said. “It’s gone by incredibly fast. We are proud of these seniors who will be graduating as Lions, many with an associate’s degree (from CTC). We will celebrate a lot this year.”

Early College High School freshmen and sophomores attend class at a campus on Fort Hood that was once Smith Middle School, while juniors and seniors share two buildings on the CTC campus.

Haynes Elementary School fifth-graders Jaida Rivera and Erin Rhodes were also pondering the first day of school. It’s good to be the oldest on campus, they said, but also sad to consider leaving the school they love.

“It’s sad because it’s our last year to be here,” Rivera said. “At the same time, I’m happy to see my friends and I love to learn.” She said she was excited to take part in technology club and was considering student council.

“It’s very nerve racking,” said Rhodes, who said there were a lot of new students. “I was surprised and excited to see Jaida in my class. I’m excited for science because we can do more experiments.”

“It’s wonderful to stop at our newest school and see all of these smiling faces,” said Superintendent John Craft, visiting Douse Elementary School, now entering its second year. “We have waited for this day all year long. It’s great to see all of this energy this morning.”

Campus leaders agreed the first day and really the first week are about establishing relationships and getting used to procedures. “Establishing the trust with the students is so important,” said Willow Springs Elementary Principal Andrea Chaney. “We want them to feel safe here.”

“It’s about building rapport and relationships,” said Adams at West Ward. “It’s so nice to see all the parents and students back. Everyone is motivated.”

“As superintendent I want parents to feel like they can approach me and ask questions,” Craft said as he visited numerous schools on the first day. “I want them to know that I care about theirstudents’ education. Our parents are our partners in education and we could not do it without them. It’s going to be a great year.”

Samantha Solliday contributed to this report.

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