The first day of school got off to a smooth start in Columbia County.
Other than a couple of late school buses and a tardy bell that did not ring, the first morning at the new Stallings Island Middle School proved uneventful.
"It's really quiet out front. That's what concerns me," Principal Don Putnam said into a walkie talkie.
Putnam and Superintendent Charles Nagle greeted pupils on Monday in front of the building as they arrived at school. Stallings Island, the county's eighth middle school, opened on Blackstone Camp Road this year.
Inside, middle-school pupils on the way to their homerooms filed past a trophy case full of red-and-gold Stallings Island Red Hawk jerseys. Most of the children had a first look at the new school at open house last week.
"It's really nice. There's lots of space," said eighth-grader Nicole Carlisle, 13. But Nicole, who previously attended Riverside Middle School, also said "it's kind of weird" to go to a new building for her final year of middle school.
Zack Ikner, 13, who started seventh grade, said he was looking forward to seeing his friends and going to the new school. He attended Riverside Middle last year.
"I'm kind of happy about it because this one's bigger, and it's new. And we have our own lockers," he said.
Lakeside High School Principal Jeff Carney said a group of Stallings Island pupils ended up on a bus to Lakeside, but opening day went smoothly otherwise.
Carney also said counselors were on hand to help students cope with the accidental shooting death Saturday of Richard Mixon, 14, who would have started ninth grade Monday.
"I think a lot of the shock and grief occurred (Sunday)," Carney said.
Although Richard never attended classes at Lakeside, he went to open house and the Summer Panther Academy to help rising ninth-graders adjust to school, Carney said.
Putnam, who was Richard's principal at Riverside Middle, called him a "typical middle-school boy.
"We saw Richard really mature into a nice young man," Putnam said.
At River Ridge Elementary School, many parents used digital cameras, video cameras and camera phones to record their children's first day of school.
Five-year-old Benjamin Bowen looked to his father, Westy, for guidance when he was asked which grade he was starting.
"Daddy, I have no idea," he said.
However, Benjamin, a kindergartner, seemed comfortable in his new surroundings.
"There is a neighbor in my class, and that's what I'm looking forward to," he said.
South Columbia Elementary School pupils had to walk around a car from Historic Stock Car Racing as they entered the building. Eric Lux's Kellogg's Phelon Racing car was on site in honor of the school's Red Hot Reader program, sponsored by Augusta Blueprint.
"Whoa, it is a real race car," said second-grader Kameron Gilbert, 7, as he walked up to the car on his way into school.
Kameron, who got his photo taken next to the car, said he was ready to head back to school after a long summer.
Leia Hand, of Martinez, wasn't nervous about her first day of kindergarten.
"She's excited," Leia's mother, Regina, said. "Mommy is the one that's nervous."
Ava Strickland, 4, of Martinez, didn't seem nervous either as she entered her pre-K classroom with her parents, Rob and Becky, in tow.
She walked in, put her bag down and started surveying the colorful room and her classmates.
Ava's classmate, Drew King, 4, enjoyed the time before school by building block towers and playing with toy dinosaurs.
"I like dinosaurs and alligators and snakes," Drew said as he invaded boxes of toys.
At Evans Elementary School, parents watched as their children adjusted to their new surroundings.
Evans resident Amy Logue had twins starting kindergarten together.
"It's a little hard today," said Logue, after her son, Justin, gave her a hug. "I think I'll eventually get used to it."
Justin's twin sister, Taylor, was busy playing with toys set up on her desk.
"I requested to have them in the same class just because it's a new school," Logue said.
Outside, Kiara Williams jumped off the school bus, excited to start the fourth grade.
"I got a lot of new stuff, and I can't wait to use it for the fourth grade," she said. "I heard fourth grade is real fun."
For more reader photos of children heading off to their first day of school, see Sunday's News-Times. Send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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