Students return on Cabell County’s first day of school

August 21, 2018

SALT ROCK - The Monday morning fog hadn’t yet cleared off the Guyandotte River when those familiar yellow buses carefully twisted out from the hollers toward Salt Rock Elementary School, heralding one of the most anxious and anticipated days in a child’s young life.

It was a scene played out on every street, every doorstep and every drop-off at the end of a long gravel road in Cabell County - the first day of school had arrived for the county’s nearly 14,000 students.

“Our community is very school-oriented, so we’re all just happy to see everyone else,” said Jennifer Ross, principal of Salt Rock Elementary, among the county’s smallest schools by enrollment (215), but the undisputed centerpiece of Salt Rock. “Everyone comes in and takes their pictures and talks briefly. It’s very nice and you couldn’t ask for a better place to live.

“I hug about as many mommies as I do kids, because sometimes it’s a hard day for them, too.”

It was smooth sailing all day at Salt Rock - a lot of orientation and meeting new faces - as it was countywide, said Superintendent of Schools Ryan Saxe.

“That’s a testament to how well our staff has worked over the summer and this past week to make sure that we are ready to welcome the students into this school year,” said Saxe, now entering his second school year leading Cabell County Schools.

Saxe and other central office staff spent the day touring all the district’s operations, starting bright and early at 5:40 a.m. as they sent off bus drivers from the Transportation Complex in Lesage.

The superintendent visited Village of Barboursville Elementary, the Cabell County Career Technology Center, and finished the afternoon at Huntington High School, where wide-eyed freshman were just beginning to navigate the maze of a new school.

Though central office employees like Saxe work all year, transitioning from summer to the school year is akin to moving from dress rehearsal to live action.

“There’s just something about the first day of school that brings a new, refreshed energy,” Saxe said. “It’s just hard to sleep because you’re anticipating all the wonderful things the new school year holds.”

It was a restless night before the first day at a new school for Huntington High Principal Dan Gleason too, who takes the helm after nine years at Milton Middle School.

With nearly three times as many students as his former school and with much more complex finances, Gleason said he looks forward to the challenge of leading one of the state’s largest high schools.

“I’ve got a great staff here, I can tell that early on,” Gleason said. “It was hard to keep them out of the building - all the teachers were just raring to go a week or two before we even opened the building to them.

“I’ve really been impressed with the commitment and the dedication of the staff.”

Cabell County’s 2018-19 school year is slated to end on May 30.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter at @BishopNash.

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