Students at the remaining four Red River Valley area school districts returned to the classroom Thursday, getting the 2021-22 school year fully in gear.

Under gray skies and through the rain, parents walked young children hand in hand to the front of Paris ISD’s Aikin Elementary School, where staff and administrators excitedly greeted them, helped ensure each student and visitor had a mask and hands were properly sanitized. The district enacted the measures for the health and safety of students as Covid-19 surges again, this time fueled by the more contagious delta variant.

None of the health guidelines appeared to impact the excitement of the day as teachers at all Paris ISD campuses eagerly welcomed students into their classrooms and to their desks.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Justiss Elementary School Principal Renee Elmore said. “We had an amazing day from start to finish with students and staff all happy to be back at school and excited to see each other and just be back at Justiss.”

Crockett Intermediate School Principal Brock Blassingame said the same of his campus, adding that first day hurdles, such as traffic, aside, “everything went smoothly.”

“Our teachers and staff did an excellent job last year while facing extremely difficult circumstances. They are excited for the opportunity to begin the year with everyone on campus, and look forward to making a difference in the lives of our students,” Blassingame said.

Elmore also shared excitement about having all students back on campus after last year’s inclusion of remote learning as part of the Covid-19 pandemic health measures.

“Our goal is to focus on learning loss and the social and emotional needs of our students in response to Covid-19 and the effects the pandemic has had on our students,” Elmore said. “We are just ready to roll up our sleeves and get to teaching, having fun, and of course dancing — we do a lot of dancing at Justiss!”

Even with the most parent pick-up students than ever, afternoon pick-up went smoothly Thursday at Justiss, and even more so on Friday at both elementary school campuses.

On the first day of school, there were 3,623 total Paris ISD students. Of those, 193 were enrolled at Lamar County Head Start; 100 at T.G. Givens Early Childhood Center; 510 at Justiss Elementary; 868 at Aikin Elementary; 501 at Crockett Intermediate; 522 at Paris Junior High; 902 at Paris High School; and 27 at Travis High School of Choice, the district reported.

Detroit ISD

Detroit ISD students and staff were happy to see each other Thursday, despite the weather.

“I’m so excited to start the new school year with my fifth graders,” math teacher Shelby Francis said. “I love meeting all of my new students every year on the first day of school. So many different new faces and personalities make each year so different and unique to itself. I cherish every memory and relationship I create with my students.

“Detroit has the most loving and dedicated kids that I’ve ever seen. I’m so grateful to each parent and guardian that has trusted me with their most prized possessions over the past three years.”

Kelley Dean at Detroit High School shared similar excitement for the day, saying everyone has been busy planning and preparing for the first day.

“Summer break is nice, but we are always ready to be back in school with our students,” she said. “Last year was tough on staff, students, and families, and we will be working diligently alongside our custodial staff to clean and sanitize classrooms and common areas to keep our students and community safe.

“More importantly, we will be working hard to educate and enjoy every minute of it. We are looking forward to a great year.”

Students were all smiles as they made their way to their rooms, with several of the youngest students holding hands with staff members who were more than happy to show them the ropes and to their rooms.

Enrollment numbers for Detroit ISD were not available by press time.

Chisum, Rivercrest ISDs

At the end of his first day in pre-kindergarten, Julian Nichols saw his dad, ran into his arms and then just sat there hugging him for a bit.

Thursday was the first day of school for a lot of Lamar and Red River counties’ students, with Chisum and Rivercrest ISDs kicking off the new school year.

“I played and made some new friends,” Olivia Hancock said, grinning at the end of her first day of kindergarten in Chisum. “It was awesome.”

Julian said he also had a good time on his first day.

“I met the teacher and we went and ate,” he said, also proudly showing off his new backpack. “It has dinosaurs.”

His pre-k teacher, Kim Hammill, said the first day was long, but good.

“It was awesome,” she said.

Aviana Green wanted to share that on her first day, she did “lots of stuff.”

“I colored my own shoe and a rainbow fish,” Aviana said. Standing next to her, her cousin Jayce Richards said he “had no idea” what he learned Thursday in school.

Over at Rivercrest Elementary School, Daniel Larson sat waiting in his car for school to start, with rain pouring down around the awning. He said he was looking forward to his first day.

“I like meeting my friends and learning new things,” he said.

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