LEICESTER, Mass. — As Leicester's children stepped off school buses for the first time since last June, teachers and administrators were there to welcome their return Thursday morning and thrilled to begin a new year of education.
"Kids loving coming back," said Superintendent Paul Soojian. "I love that excitement, whether it's the high school seniors all the way down to the little ones — it's really great. The teachers are excited to have the kids back, too, and it's just that full sense of renewal."
While the superintendent said every year brings its new challenges to the district as well, this year, one initiative that he looks forward to seeing continue is curriculum re-development.
Last year Marilyn Tencza was selected as the district's new curriculum director, taking the lead of coordinating the changes to the kindergarten to 12th grade program.
"A group of people did a lot of work over the summer, and we're looking forward to having it all start to come together," said Soojian.
Additionally, as Leicester High School was accepted into the cohort for the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative Advanced Placement grant, the school now has four additional AP classes available to students.
"It's quite an undertaking," said Principal Tom Lauder. "There's a lot more kids taking AP that had not before, so we're excited about that."
Though the August start is early compared to other districts, Lauder said both the teachers and the kids are ready to return.
"They're excited to see their friends again," he said. "It's kind of like a reunion."
On Wednesday, the seniors decorated a hallway to celebrate the start of their final year. Earlier this week, the new freshman had an opportunity to explore their new building.
Primary school Principal Kathy Pelley said the first day went phenomenally.
"I have an outstanding staff, they're just the best," she said. "Everybody rises to the occasion and helps out."
Pelley said the staff was all about making sure things go well for the first and second-grade students on their first day.
"This shapes their opinion of school going forward," said Pelley. "There were a few tears this morning, but not many."
This year, while kindergarten students had screening appointments Thursday, they will officially start school on Monday.
"It's a crucial time for them, so it needs to go smoothly, and be stress-free and a positive experience," said Pelley.