Nutley and Belleville students began the 2012-13 school year on Thursday with what two families said was excitement and anticipation of a great year.
School officials in both towns said the first day went smoothly, with several new principals beginning assignments in Nutley. Belleville children returned to schools that had fresh paint, repaired ceilings and improved electrical systems.
In Nutley, two sisters and their mom spoke glowingly about their first days, with one starting at John H. Walker Middle School and the other beginning the third grade at Yanticaw Elementary School.
Elena Navarra, 12, said her two favorite classes in seventh grade on day one were homeroom and math.
“I liked them best because all the teachers were welcoming, and kind of honest about how they teach, and how misbehavior will not come off easy for students,” Elena said.
Middle school is different from elementary school, she said.
“Teachers leave you more on your own, and you have to figure out where your classes are,” Elena said. “Teachers helped, but they tried to let you figure it out.”
Her younger sister Leah said she is looking forward to third grade for one main reason.
“I liked my first day because I have a really good teacher,” Leah said. “We did a lot of fun things, like clapping, where she clapped ‘one, two, three’ and we clapped ‘look at me.’ She’s really nice.” She said her teacher’s name was Mrs. Pate.
Their mom, Ruth Navarra, said the family moved to Nutley 12 years ago for the superior school district, and they have been happy with the choice.
"We really it here, the teachers are attentive, and the kids are prospering," she said. "It's been really good for them, and it’s a lot of the reason why we are glad we moved here."
In Belleville, for Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, her son, Matthew and daughter Valerie, the three related similar experiences, with Matthew starting seventh grade at Belleville Middle School and Valerie starting third grade at School No. 3.
The two had very busy days, and Gabrielle said the goal of the day was to make things “awesome.”
Also in Belleville, Belleville High School senior Katie Dolan, said, "I'm looking forward to my Senior Year. It should be awesome. The Class of 2013 has lots of great things planned." Her mom, Patti Dolan had a message for the senior class.
"I'm hoping all the students in the class of 2013 have a great year and one to remember always!" she said.
While families began settling in, recently-hired teachers completed a comprehensive two-day orientation, said Russell Lazovick, superintendent of schools.
A new director of special services, high school and middle school principals, two high school vice principals and a new Yanticaw principal all began new tenures, Lazovick said.“We are beginning a new curriculum,” he said.
In Belleville, Joseph Longo, school board member, said all reports were that the first day went well.
“Things opened very smoothly and orderly,” Longo said Thursday night. “Everybody was pleased that it went well. We are on the right path.”
The district’s eight schools underwent repairs and improvements to get ready for the new school year, including new paint, flooring and lighting. Longo is on the buildings and grounds committee, and said the work was completed in time for the first day of school.