Monday, Aug. 31 marked the first day of school for students at New Windsor Middle School and others across Carroll County. (Lauren Loricchio/Carroll County Times)
After a nearly three month-long summer break, fourth-grader Piper Perguson returned to Charles Carroll Elementary School Monday, marking the start of a new school year for thousands of students across Carroll County.
Piper received a warm greeting from administrators, staff and faculty with hugs, as the song "We're Going to Be Friends" by the White Stripes played from speakers. She then stepped into the school hallway and said goodbye to her mother Angela Perguson and sister Lexie Perguson, a senior at Winters Mill High School.
It was difficult to say goodbye to Piper after having her home for the entire summer, Angela said.
"I'm that mom that likes it better when my kids are at home," Angela said. "If [Lexie] wasn't with me I'd probably be crying right now."
Although it was hard to say goodbye the her daughter, Angela said she was excited for her Piper to begin the new school year.
Will Hopkins, a physical education teacher at Charles Carroll, part of the group of administrators and teachers who welcomed students at the school entrance, said beginning a new year is just as exciting for him as it is for his students.
"It's nice to see the kids grow up over the summer and come back," Hopkins said.
This year may mark the last for Charles Carroll, which has been recommended for closure after the 2015-2016 school year by Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie. School officials have said the aging school, built in 1929, needs to either be replaced or modernized, which would cost an estimated $20 million.
"It's sad to see that the building may be empty — it is historical," Angela Perguson said.
Hopkins said the possibility of closure won't have any effect on the way the school operates.
"We're here for the kids to make it the best environment for them to learn — this is a great environment to do it, whether we're here next year or not it will be the same as always," Hopkins said. "We're here for the kids; we're not here to make a big hurrah."
In Westminster, families gathered at designated bus stops to say goodbye to their little learners on the first day of school.
Priya and Eric Hellstrom came to the intersection of Union Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to drop off Kyla, entering the second grade, and Griffin who started kindergarten Monday. Priya said it was an emotional experience to drop her son off for his first day of school.
"I've got mixed emotions about it," Priya said. "I'm absolutely excited for them to go to school, but it's also sad. He's my last baby."
Second-grade student Nijae Tate said she wasn't excited to go back to school after a long and fun summer, but she was excited to see all of her friends again. Nijae and her friend, third-grader Samara Stewart, continually pointed to other neighbors at the bus stop, noticing out how much they've changed over the summer.
At Westminster Elementary School, some parents arrived early so they could line up to take photos of their children underneath the school's name written on the wall.
Just like the kids at the bus stop, fourth-graders Malaki Saunders and Brandon Angell and third-grader Ellie Connolly said they were most excited to have a chance to see all of their friends again. The three gathered under the sign for a group picture taken by their parents.
For the students riding the bus, they were immediately met by teachers and administrators who planted a color-coded sticker on their chests to help their homeroom teachers guide them to the right bus at the end of the day. Teachers lined the walkway outside of the school to greet the students, provide moments of encouragement for the nervous newbies, and corral the excited to their proper place. Some students took a moment to hug their favorite teachers from previous years.
Assistant Principal Kay Hayes greeted students leaving the bus early in the morning. She said the first day of school is one of the best of the year.
"Our goal is that each child arrives safely and makes it home safely at the end of the day," Hayes said. "It's almost as exciting a day for us as it is for them."
Mike Eisenklam, elementary supervisor at the school system's central office, was on hand to take down numbers of children getting off the buses in the morning. He said he loves an opportunity to get out of the office for a while.
"I love to see the smiling kids," Eisenklam said. "You get to see them coming in excited, showing off their new shoes."
At Carrolltowne Elementary School in Eldersburg, Leslie Rodgers rushed to catch her son Sebastian, 5, before he walked into his first day of kindergarten.
"Right now I'm a little sad. It's a big change. It's the beginning of his school career," Rodgers said.
Rodgers brought Sebastian's brother Caleb, 2, to the school because Caleb was upset that he didn't say goodbye to his brother before he boarded the bus. They caught him just before he walked through the doors.