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For Christa McAuliffe’s Students, A Long Morning

January 27, 1986

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ Students who geared up to see one of their teachers blast into space on Monday packed away their banners and party horns after the flight of the shuttle Challenger was postponed for a third time.

About 250 of Concord High School’s 1,200 students gathered in the cafeteria Monday morning to watch televised preparations for the launch of social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe and her crewmates. Other students watched in classrooms.

By late morning, with the shuttle still on the ground, the mood in the cafeteria swung between boredom and excitement. Conversation turned from the launch to more immediate topics: dating, social plans and ″hot″ rock videos.

″It’s hard to keep getting up for it (the launch),″ said junior Diana Mackenzie, 17.

Many students said they are eager to see McAuliffe lift off but are tired of the hoopla that has surrounded her and the school since she was chosen for the trip last year from more than 10,000 teachers nationwide.

″It’s Christa this and Christa that and everybody is pretty sick of Christa stuff,″ said Chuck Landry, 17, a senior. ″She’s a nice person and everything, but you can only stay excited for so long.″

″Either people are really up for this or they don’t care,″ said Karen Cross, 17, a junior, who had a front-row seat at one television.

Those most excited about the launch sported party hats and horns and hung banners saying, ″We’re With You Christa.″ Others wore T-shirts showing a space shuttle and reading, ″Concord High Has the Spirit.″

McAuliffe’s launch had been delayed from Sunday to Monday, which helped with the plans of Carina Dolcino, the senior class president who organized the horn blowers and handed out the hats.

″Something like this will never happen to us again,″ she said between toots on her horn.

Launch preparations had taken up so much of her time that Miss Dolcino hadn’t had time to write a paper due late Monday morning for her advanced writing class.

″I’m sure the teacher will understand. I just can’t settle down. There’s too much excitement,″ she said.

Midway through the morning, seniors Carl Kirsch and Andrew Cagle - two ″shuttle protesters″ - appeared holding signs that read, ″We’d rather be learning.″

″I don’t appreciate you guys doing this,″ Miss Dolcino told the pair.

″Well hey, we don’t appreciate the school wasting all this time,″ Kirsch said. ″Everything around here is Christa, Christa. It’s been like this for months and we’re sick of it.″

Classes continued during the morning and students weren’t required to watch the launch preparations.

While Kirsch and Cagle said they objected to the school’s participation in the launch, both said they might glance at the two lessons McAuliffe plans to transmit from space. With the help of the public broadcasting network, the lessons are to be transmitted to television stations in classrooms nationwide.

The flight was postponed Monday because of strong winds that built up during the more than two hours that technicians wrestled with a balky hatch bolt.

The flight was pushed back from Saturday by bad weather at an emergency landing site in North Africa and on Sunday because of a fickle weather forecast.

Officials reset the launch for Tuesday.

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