KATHLEEN — “Good morning, Warhawks!” was Veterans High School principal Lionel Brown’s greeting over the intercom around 7:45 a.m. Monday.
As students in Houston County returned to school, about 900 freshmen, sophomores and juniors attended classes at Veterans for the first time. The school’s first senior class will graduate in 2012.
Brown continued on, going over matters such as lunch periods and the dress code as the students settled into homeroom and their first period classes on the school’s inaugural day.
The students, rezoned to Veterans from Houston County, Perry and Warner Robins high schools, gathered in the cafeteria until 7:30, when a horn-like bell sounded and students scattered throughout the school.
While class wouldn’t start until a quarter to 8, many of students cleared the halls within 10 minutes, their movement, in a sense, almost military-like.
“Things are smooth, very smooth so far,” Brown said after finishing the morning announcements.
Still, some students had their share of jitters coming to a new school with new classmates, as two sophomores who started high school at Houston County High last year made their way down the hallway, schedules in hand, to find their first class.
“I feel good. I don’t know half the people here,” sophomore Taylor Deistler said about starting the new year. “Three-quarters, to be precise.”
“I’m scared, a little lost,” said sophomore Kassidy Poborsky, as she tried to navigate the halls.
For junior Jada Banks, who comes to Veterans from Warner Robins High, starting class at a new school is something she’s already used to, after moving to Middle Georgia from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“(I’m feeling) good,” Banks said. “It’s a new environment.”
Sophomore Reanna Kessler, transferring from Perry High, said she is looking forward to the possibilities in beginning a new year at a new school.
“It’s like starting over for me,” she said.
Superintendent Robin Hines also made his rounds at Veterans on Monday, noting that students moved through the school in an orderly manner and were appropriately dressed. The central office staff usually visits as many schools as possible on the first day of every school year, he said.
“I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for the opening day at Veterans,” said Hines, who visited seven or eight schools during the day.
Outside the school, officials said there were no major traffic delays at Veterans in the morning.
“Traffic flowed very well from where I was standing,” said Retonda Grace, a secretary at the central office, who helped make sure cars did not get in the way of school buses coming in and out.
World history teacher Genevieve Dahle, who monitored students outside her classroom Monday morning, looks forward to building new traditions at Veterans.
She said things went “really well” on the first day, especially since many students attended the school’s open house Thursday to find their way around the school. Dahle, who came to Veterans from Houston County High, said there were more students there than she has seen at open houses in the past.
Dahle described the open house as emotional, especially after she had previously been laid off through reduction in force cuts in May.
“When I walked in, it was like I was back home,” she said.
The first day of school began with more of a bang at Warner Robins High Monday morning though.
A protest of about 30 people — led by the Rev. Donald Crosby, pastor of God’s Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ — took place in front of the school picketing its use of the Demons as its mascot.
Crosby, who has been spearheading a movement in recent weeks to remove the school’s mascot, was arrested by the Warner Robins Police Department on disorderly conduct and picketing without a permit charges shortly after 7 a.m.
The protest had little impact on students and school employees in the morning as they began the new year, said Hines.
“It’s unfortunate the way things happened today,” he said. “Our primary purpose is to have school and have the least distractions we possibly can.”
Other than that, the first day went smoothly at the other schools in the district, officials said.
There were 300 more students enrolled in Houston County’s schools Monday compared to last year’s first day of school, said Hines, on target with previous enrollment predictions. First-day enrollment was 27,063 students, but student numbers will be subject to change during the first 10 days of school.