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Woodbury School students welcome their new, younger Fernway schoolmates

August 24, 2018

Woodbury School students welcome their new, younger Fernway schoolmates

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- A day after rain postponed the originally scheduled event, sunshine greeted the students of Woodbury Elementary School Thursday afternoon as they officially welcomed -- with ceremony -- their new second- through fourth-grade schoolmates from Fernway Elementary.

About 315 students from grades two though six stood outside Woodbury School, 15400 S. Woodland Road, to hear comments from principals and for a flag-raising ceremony. The flag-raising ceremony is a tradition at the start of each school year at the Shaker district’s elementary schools.

“This (ceremony) is a little special, because the second- through fourth-grade students from Fernway are here, and because 2018 marks the 100th anniversary for Woodbury School,” said the district’s Executive Director of Communications Scott Stephens. “The kids are kind of excited, and so are the parents and staff.”

The Fernway School roof was destroyed by a July 9 fire, forcing the Shaker Heights School District to come up with a plan to place the kindergarten through fourth-grade students that attended that school into new learning environments.

The three classes each of Fernway second- through fourth-graders were assigned to Woodbury School, a little over a mile away, to join the fifth- and sixth-graders there.

Fernway’s kindergartners are now being taught at Onaway Elementary School, and first-graders at Boulevard Elementary School.

Both Onaway and Boulevard are in close proximity to Woodbury, which Stephens said makes it easier for parents of students attending classes in more than one of the involved buildings to drop off and pick up their children at school.

The older students at Woodbury made their younger, new schoolmates feel right at home on Thursday afternoon. With the fifth- and sixth-graders standing outside, the Fernway students were applauded as they were introduced and walked outside from the school’s main entrance.

A small band made up of music department teachers performed an instrumental version of the “Mickey Mouse Club March” as the approximately 190 young students emerged from the building.

Woodbury Principal Danny Young welcomed the new students and thanked the school’s custodial staff for the work they did on short notice to prepare the building for its new students, and the staff for the extra work they’ve had to do.

Shaker school officials made it their goal to ensure that Fernway students were in classrooms on Aug. 22, the day all of the district’s schools opened.

“Welcome Fernway,” Young said. “Whatever we can do to be of assistance, let your principal know.”

Stephens said Fernway Principal Chris Hayward will have an office in Woodbury School, and will “bounce around” to Onaway and Boulevard schools to make sure he stays in contact with Fernway students in those buildings.

“It’s a historical day, a wonderful day,” Hayward told those assembled. “We are now truly ‘Fernbury’ students.”

Members of the Woodbury School Student Council extended a welcome to their younger schoolmates by holding up letters that spelled out ”#FernburyUnited.”

Hayward noted that the Woodbury building at one time served as Shaker Heights High School, then as the district’s middle school. He said this was the first time it was welcoming such young students to its halls.

The brief ceremony also included the playing of the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.

On the first day of school, the music department welcomed students by playing as the students entered the building.

“We’re all a little excited, and some of the students are a little anxious,” said second-grade teacher Matt Zucca. “This is a different place, so it’s going to take some time to get used to it, but we believe it will be a successful year.”

Zucca, in his 20th year of teaching -- all at Fernway -- lives in the Fernway neighborhood. His two daughters both attended Fernway and are now in the fifth and sixth grades at Woodbury.

“Our neighborhoods here are known by the school names,” Zucca said, “and we identify ourselves by those names within our community.”

Parent Kate Stuart’s son, Adam, is a Fernway student who has just entered the fourth grade.

“He’s had a range of emotions,” Kate Stuart said of her son as the first day of school drew near. “But, he’s excited to be here with his Fernway friends.

“He’s been in this school (Woodbury) before for a summer camp, so it was a good segue for him.”

Stuart, who last year was Fernway’s PTO president, said many other parents feel as she does that the school district did a good job in placing Fernway students in new buildings in a limited time frame.

“I think it’s important that the administration know how much we appreciate what they’ve done,” Stuart said. “They’ve done all they could to keep us informed with every step during the transition.

“The custodians had to do so much work and they were able to make this all happen. We’re very appreciative of what they’ve all done.”

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