Changes greet Russellville students on first day

As kindergartners approached Lauren Novak’s classroom before their first day of school Thursday, they were directed to pick up a book and wait in the hallway.

As kindergartners approached Lauren Novak’s classroom before their first day of school Thursday, they were directed to pick up a book and wait in the hallway. Photo by Michelle Brooks.

Family tradition at the Plochberger house included posing for photographs on the first day of school.

Mom Jamie Plochberger took outside photos of her fifth-grader Landon and second-grader Lexie in front of the Russellville Elementary School on Thursday morning.

“She’s taken at least a million on this camera this morning,” Landon said.

Principal Karen Ponder welcomed students at the front door, which has been remodeled to include a vestibule for extra security.

The elementary school also was implementing a new drop-off system, which should create a smoother flow for traffic in the morning, said Superintendent Jerry Hobbs.

Inside the school before 8 a.m., middle school students walked in the gymnasium while elementary students sat in the hallways outside their classroom.

Kindergartners entering Lauren Novak’s classroom were introduced to the morning routine of picking out a book for a little extra reading before the day begins.

Fifth-grade students entering Jennifer Bish’s classroom were introduced to a “job” system that will help them build personal responsibility, which they will need as they move on next year into middle school.

Each month, the 16 students will apply and interview for jobs, including messenger, teacher’s assistant and Geek Squad, which helps with technology issues.

“I like teaching the oldest students on the elementary side,” Bish said. “I really see them mature from the beginning to the end of the school year.”

Across town, high school students filed into the gymnasium by 8:30 a.m. for an informative and motivational opening session.

Some of the changes for this year include replacing the former ZAP (Zeroes Aren’t Permitted) program with an eighth-hour tutorial and lunch time availability for one-on-one teacher instruction.

Principal Heath Waters emphasized three areas of focus this year — changing the game to make the future better, not allowing others to squish one’s dreams and taking risks.

To reinforce the latter, students were invited to a Fear Factor-type game.

Alex Thompson accepted the challenge.

Fixed with goggles and rubber gloves, Thompson received an envelope with his directions. Surprisingly, inside was a $20 bill and he was awarded the flat-screen television on which video excerpts had been shown for the assembly.

“Sometimes it pays to take a risk,” Waters said.

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