The warning bell rang at a little before 8 a.m. Tuesday, and students began to pack the hallways, headed to their first class.
Many of them, especially the older ones, seemed to know where they were going. But some looked a little unsure.
Luckily, Steve Jones was there.
He’s the principal of Desert Hills Middle School in Kennewick, and he made sure all the young Hawks got where they needed to go.
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For Jones, it was a particularly special day.
Tuesday marked not only the start of the new school year, but also the first day ever in Desert Hill’s brand-new home — a 110,400-square-foot, $40.7 million facility on Clodfelter Road.
“Being here for the first day is really exciting, probably one of the most exciting days I’ve had (in education),” he said.
Like Desert Hills, schools across the Mid-Columbia swung open their doors Tuesday, welcoming students back from summer break.
The Kennewick School District declined to provide first-day enrollment figures, but the Richland and Pasco districts both shared their student numbers.
Richland welcomed 13,428 students, compared to 12,910 on the first day last school year.
Pasco welcomed 8,201 first- through sixth-graders, plus 1,218 students in seventh grade and 1,139 new freshmen. The rest of the district’s high school students are to arrive Aug. 31.
Kindergartners have their first full day on Sept. 1.
The district couldn’t offer an enrollment comparison for last school year because all students returned at once last year instead of in a staggered start. Enrollment will be updated throughout the week.
The Finley and Kiona-Benton City school districts also started back on Tuesday. Columbia School District in Burbank will have its first day Aug. 31.
The new Desert Hills Middle School made its public debut last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It replaces the old facility on 10th Avenue, which was the home of the Hawks for nearly 40 years.
When the students leave at the end of the school year, I want them to have had a successful year. I want them to feel good about themselves. I want the same as I want every academic year — I want it to be a good year for them.
Steve Jones, Desert Hills principal
Students gave the new building a good report card.
Maysen Chelin, 13, an eighth-grader, said she looks forward to playing volleyball in the new gym.
“And the new track is going to be super fun. It’ll allow us to have track meets at the school,’ she said as she waited for class to start.
She’s looking forward to a good school year, she said.
“I’m not really nervous. I’m more excited to see everyone again,” Maysen said. “I hope everyone feels welcomed at the new school.”
Noah Manzanares, 13, a fellow eighth-grader, also felt optimistic about the year ahead.
He was involved in student leadership last year, and planned to be again in 2016-17. “I’m really hoping to get a 4.0 this year. And not procrastinate,” he said.
Like Maysen, he wasn’t nervous. The two eighth-graders both led tours of the school earlier this week for incoming sixth-graders.
One girl on Noah’s tour was particularly anxious. She seemed “on the verge of tears,” he said.
But, as the clock neared 8 a.m. Tuesday, Noah felt certain she and other new students would do well.
“I’m pretty sure they’re all going to love it,” he said.
Jones also thinks it’ll be a good school year.
He started working at Desert Hills not too long after it opened in 1977, and he’s been principal for 15 years.
“When the students leave at the end of the school year, I want them to have had a successful year. I want them to feel good about themselves,” he said. “I want the same as I want every academic year — I want it to be a good year for them.”