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Last updated: Wed. Aug. 13, 2014 - 01:58 am EDT

Getting over first-day jitters

‘Great excitement,’ big plans for school year as kids return to EACS

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NEW HAVEN — New Haven Primary School teacher Trent Klepper chose “First Day Jitters” to read aloud to his children Tuesday.

It was the first day of school in East Allen County Schools, in a classroom filled with nervous second-graders.

Superintendent Ken Folks and Danielle Newman, principal of New Haven Primary, also stopped by the classroom to observe and visit with the kids.

The students gathered on a rug, sitting cross-legged, and several took a guess as to who the story was about and why that person was nervous about the first day of school.

“He’s nervous to be going to school?” a boy said.

“She’s sad she has to go to school,” a girl said.

“ ... nervous about a new school ... about making new friends ...,” two more chimed in.

But in the end, the story wasn’t about a student but rather a teacher who was nervous about her first day of teaching. That caused Newman to expel a breath of relief.

“I thought it was going to be the principal,” she told the children, laughing.

Although she has been an educator for 17 years in East Allen County Schools, Newman is in her first year as a principal. She taught fifth and sixth grade before becoming an instructional coach at Leo Junior-Senior High School and Paul Harding Junior High, where she worked the past few years.

Although official enrollment numbers will not be available until Sept. 12, roughly 9,000 had registered to attend district schools as of Tuesday, Folks said.

Teachers, students and administrators all seemed ready to return to school, he said.

“There is great excitement today,” he said, arriving at New Haven Primary about 11 a.m. “I’ve already visited half of the schools in the district.”

This is Folks’ second year as EACS superintendent. He has spent more than 30 years as a teacher and administrator in public schools.

He said he is excited to see some of the programs the district worked on last year come to fruition and hopes to expand on them this year:

•“War rooms,” set up last year in the junior and senior high schools, will be installed in the elementary schools this year. The data centers track student strengths and weaknesses on an individual level and include assessments every few weeks.

•All employees and students have been trained in the ALICE safety program, which provides tools and strategies on how individuals can respond to potentially dangerous intruders or situations. ALICE is an acronym that stands for the safety program’s five steps for handling a crisis: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.

•Using state standards, the EACS faculty is continuing to develop new curriculum – called bundles – that have proven to help raise test scores, Folks said.

•After testing an eLearning plan in April to make up for a snow day, Folks said he plans to implement it districtwide in the event of snow days this year. Students who are forced to stay home by inclement weather use computers to complete school lessons within seven days of a designated makeup day, he said.

•All students continue to be taught good character traits and to respect others, part of the school’s anti-bullying campaign, Folks said.

“There are different methods for different ages, but it’s the same message: treat others as you would like to be treated,” he said.

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