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Eva Copeland, principal of Alachua Elementary, greets parents and children before they meet the teachers for the school year.

ALACHUA – Summer has come to an end, and the children of Alachua County have had their first taste of the new school year.

“It was a good year last year, and we’re expecting another one,” said Kevin Berry, 37, curriculum resource teacher at Alachua Elementary.

School started on Monday, but the children and parents had a chance to meet the teachers last Thursday and Friday at schools around the county.

Alachua Elementary had parents and students meet the teachers from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday.

School faculty and staff directed them into the buildings to discuss what materials they would need, where they would sit and what books they would be reading.

“Hi, what’s your name?” asked teacher Dakota Faust, 23, as she introduced herself to a new pupil.

The parents talked about their hopes and plans for the school year, while the kids wandered into classrooms and looked at books scattered on desks. “I might get involved with the PTA this year, since I’m no longer working during the day,” said parent Maria Walker, 43. Some members of the PTA were selling shirts and ribbons to raise money.  

Teachers laid out their goals, too. “I just hope they grow and learn in all subjects,” said teacher Kaytlynn Milliken, 22, who had already talked to six parents.

There was no shortage of parents, though the turnout might have been slightly lower than last year, said Eva Copeland, principal.

“The kids seem to be excited,” Copeland said. “We want to keep moving them forward. Not just in academics, but social success, too.” Copeland was interrupted by a student that came up to hug her.

“Did you have a good summer?” she asked the small girl. “Yeah,” the girl replied.  “You’ve grown,” Copeland said.

The familiar faces didn’t just come in the form of students. Several teachers, like Faust, are returning as full-time teachers after interning at the school.

Parent Julie Rye took her daughter, Hailey, 7, to prepare for her first year at Alachua Elementary. “I feel great about the school,” she said.

Alachua Elementary is one of the few schools in the county that saw an improvement in their grade from the Florida Department of Education after the evaluation standards change. Berry and Copeland credit the improvement to a strengthening of the curriculum last year, which included workshops for teachers that trained the teachers in curriculum changes. This year, the Common Core standards, which are intended to reduce inconsistencies in curriculums across the country, will be in effect.

“We’ve learned to teach to individual students instead of groups,” Berry said.

At 1:45 p.m. on Monday, the students at Alachua Elementary had finished their first day in the new school year. As they trickled out of the building, even some parents were sad to see the summer be over.

One parent said she was more upset than some of the children that school was back in session. Some of the children, including hers, were excited, she said.

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