Students, teachers, parents celebrate first day at new Red Pump Elementary

After a two-day delay, Red Pump Elementary officially opened its doors to students for the first day of school Wednesday.

"I am pumped up," kindergarten teacher Valerie Weaver said Wednesday morning as the last trickle of students headed into the school, adding "get pumped up for Red Pump!"

Weaver wasn't the only one excited for the first day at the newly built school north of Bel Air. Barb Svoboda spent a week designing shirts to spell out the words "Red Pump."

Her children, Camryn, 10, and Carly, 8, wore the shirts proudly along with friends Morgan Hennigan, 5, Robert Bonafilia, 8, Allison Impallaria, 8, Alyxis Cooper-Gosnell, 8, and Cameron Zeback, 9.

"We are so excited about a new school," Svoboda said.

She explained she had spent about a week on the shirts and planned to give them to someone in the office in case other classes wanted to use them.

Svoboda and her children were among a group of walkers making their way up the long sidewalk to Red Pump Elementary on the nearly cloudless and mild morning.

Sharlet Clark, who has been a crossing guard for eight years, said the new walking and traffic patterns made for an interesting learning experience.

"It's a challenge," Clark said.

She was accompanied by two other crossing guards who were kept busy stopping traffic at the traffic circle on Red Pump Road to allow students, parents and the occasional dog to cross the street safely.

"This is my first time here of course because it's a new school," Clark said. "We've got to figure out where they're coming from."

Some parents in the Brentwood Park development, which feeds into Red Pump, expressed concerns before the start of school regarding the one mile walk to school rule.

The Harford County Board of Education implemented a policy requiring students living within one mile of a school to walk. The policy allows students in a large community who live more than a mile away to be picked up by buses, but those same buses cannot pick up those who live closer to the school.

The walk would require some students in the community to cross several roads, in part because sidewalks in the area are not all on the same side of the street.

"I think it's got its pros and its cons," Jen Musser, a walker, said of the method of getting to school.

She said it's a break from issues with other children on the bus, but feels it's too much to expect her kindergartner to walk to school every day.

"We plan on driving," Musser said.

She said it will be an adjustment.

"I'm not looking forward to doing it every day, but we'll get through it," Musser said.

Jerry Kalb, who was walking his son, Garrett, to Red Pump, said the walk was a long one.

"I think it was at least half a mile after we left the property," Kalb said.

Kalb said his son was nervous about the new school, but excited about walking to school.

"He loves to exercise so he's going to be fine with that, he wants to ride his bike," Kalb said.

Despite concerns, walkers were out in droves Wednesday and several teachers said the arrival of students went smoothly.

"Without a hitch," Tara Dedeaux, instructional facilitator at Red Pump, described the morning.

Weaver also praised the process Wednesday.

Weaver, who has taught for seven years, said William Paca Old Post Road in Abingdon, where she previously taught, they did not have the combination of walkers, drivers and buses for student arrival at school.

"I'm surprised at how smoothly it went," Weaver said.

For students and teachers alike, nerves were at a high Wednesday morning.

"Teachers don't sleep the first day of school," Weaver said, "We get just as nervous as the kids."

Musser was outside the school Wednesday morning killing time with her gradual entry kindergartner after dropping off her older daughter, who is in third grade.

"I like my teacher," Claire Musser, 5, said before adding in a quiet voice, "nothing else."

Musser explained her daughter is nervous about starting school and the two of them planned to play on the playground until it was time for them to return for class in half an hour.

"The playground looks cool," Claire said.

Musser said she was feeling good about her younger daughter starting school, but was concerned about her older daughter.

"My third grader was upset this morning," Musser said.

She explained a new school, new class and a male teacher were daunting for her daughter, who was used to attending Hickory Elementary and having a female teacher.

Weaver was happy to see the students arrive, but nervous to address parents later that afternoon.

"I was so disappointed they missed to days of school," Weaver said.

She said walking into the school every day is like Christmas morning with new toys or furniture to unwrap.

"We need kids in here so these things can be touched," Weaver said.

She said when she was first hired there was no roof at Red Pump Elementary.

"It's been great watching it evolve," Weaver said. "I feel like I was a part of the history, I'll be able to look and say I opened Red Pump."

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