The 2018-2019 school year began on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
There was buzzing in the air Wednesday morning as 403 “Bugbee Bees” gathered with their teachers and a large group of parents for the West Hartford elementary school’s traditional first day flag-raising ceremony.
The sweltering heat and humidity did nothing to dampen the excitement of students, teachers, and staff as they recited the Bugbee Promise, sang the “We the Bugbee Bees” school song, and heard some inspiring messages from Principal Kelly Brouse and a group of fifth-graders.
Brouse said that the sun was “shining extra rays for us today,” and said that the school was well-prepared to keep the students as cool as possible.
In a more solemn moment, a group of Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts raised the American flag, and then lowered it to half-staff during a moment of silence in honor of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain who died on Saturday.
Fifth grade students Samira, Sean, Sadie, Marin, and Jake shared some messages about “What it means to be a Bugbee champion.”
Samira said that “friendship is really important to me. Being a Bugbee champion means making sure you’re always looking out for others and being a true friend.”
Sean spoke about perseverance, and said there are many Bugbee champions ready to help when students get stuck on something, while Sadie said it is important to be creative to come up with new ideas. “Let your brain have fun this year,” she said.
Marin said that “Achievement is very important, and being a champion means finding success.” She urged her fellow students to think about what they want to get better at, and then set goals. “Teachers and friends are here to help you achieve your goals. Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try.”
Jake said that leadership is one of the most important traits of a champion. “It’s important that we each think about how we can be a leader this year … You are doing what’s right even when the teacher isn’t looking … you are asking questions, taking chances, and always looking to get better if you are a natural leader.”
Before the students headed into the building, Brouse said she wanted to teach everyone a word to kick off the year: “Ubuntu.” It’s a word from South Africa, she said. “It means, ‘I am because you are,’ and that means to me that ubuntu is with us every single day, that our actions matter because of the other people around us and how we affect each other, how we support each other, and how we love each other,” she said.
“Boys and girls, you are about to embark on the best school year ever. There’s a clean slate in there for you to be your very best self, and when you walk in there, you are not 403 individuals but you are one Bugbee family and I can’t wait to see the ways we lift each other up this year and establish new goals. It’s going to be an awesome year,” Brouse said.
After the ceremony, Brouse told We-Ha.com that she’s missed everyone over the summer. “It just feels like coming home. … There’s so much energy and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish this year.”
The start of the school year means “new beginnings, new promises,” Brouse said.
Special ceremonies on the first day are the norm at West Hartford’s 11 elementary schools, but at the three middle schools and two high schools students proceed directly to class.
Superintendent Tom Moore said late Wednesday morning that all across the district, the first day was going well, although overnight it had appeared there might be a problem requiring canceling of classes at one elementary school.
“Last night the power was out at Morley,” Moore said, but Eversource was able to locate the source of a blown transformer, and the power came back on at 4:45 a.m.
“It’s a hot day,” Moore said. Temperatures topped out in the mid-90s, and the humidity was also high, but he said that teachers and staff were doing what they could to keep the kids as cool as possible, cycling all classes through air-conditioned or other cooler areas of the buildings.
Moore said he makes it a point to visit all of the schools on the first day, and in some places teachers had brought classes outside because it was cooler to sit in the shade under a tree.
Some nearby districts had called for early dismissal of classes because of the heat, but West Hartford Public Schools has a shortened day on every Wednesday, so the administration did not feel it was necessary to execute an emergency closing/early dismissal plan. Moore said that he had fielded a few calls about the heat in advance, but had not received any complaints on Wednesday morning.
“It’s a good day,” he said. “People are excited to be back. It’s a special day.”
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