Doors open on a new school year

School got under way today. With the new Edison Elementary School playing host to its first classes.

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The morning sun streaks brightly through eastside windows of a brand new Edison Elementary while students pour it through the front door, from lines for breakfast or pause momentarily to ponder their direction at the dawn of a new year. Today was the first day of school for the newly constructed school and around the region.

WALLA WALLA -- Tyler Miller glanced over the growing breakfast line at Edison Elementary, and quizzically eyed the morning's selections.

It was breakfast time at Edison, on the first day of school at the newly constructed school.

"I don't even think I like breakfast," said Tyler, 9. The former Prospect Point Elementary student is among more than 200 who are new to the school, having changed neighborhood schools through new district boundaries meant to fill the new, larger Edison.

"I'm excited for him," said Tyler's mother, Terra Dillard, who tried to persuade him to eat breakfast before school started. "I think he's excited for the whole new school thing."

While mulling whether to eat, Tyler also surveyed his new school's main entrance and cafeteria, offering a nod of approval. His best description of the new building?

"College," he said.

Today marks the first day of school for thousands of children, from College Place to Milton-Freewater. Many will be new to their schools, whether entering kindergarten or starting their freshman year in high school. But at Edison, even returning students are attending a new school. The old building has long been torn down and hauled away, leaving in its place a two-story, cutting-edge facility with lots of natural light, a spacious new gymnasium, the latest education technology and many other perks.

Mikayla Cummings, who will substitute teach at Edison through December, stood near the school's main hallway to help direct children into the gym, where they waited to meet their teachers and walk as a class to their rooms.

Cummings was a student teacher at Edison last year, and proved a familiar face to many of the returning children. Between directing traffic and guiding students toward the gym, she also took time to give out hugs and reassuring words.

"What do you think of this place?" she asked as she received a hug from a girl, who smiled broadly and nodded. "It's nice, huh?"

Mary Lynn Thompson, Edison's speech language pathologist, was among the staff members helping guide children and address parents' questions. She said a family night hosted Monday drew hundreds of parents and children, and likely helped many families feel more oriented with the new school.

One of the school's first tests was getting breakfast served to close to 80 children.

Pam Milleson, the district's food service director, was on hand to help with the coordination, which includes checking that children are in the system, and helping them make good breakfast choices while keeping the breakfast line moving.

And students had their share of foods, including eggs, waffles, cereal, sausage pizza squares, and an assortment of juices and fruits.

"There's the potential to hit 100 today," Milleson said of the morning head-count. "The first morning is always a low-count morning."

A few parents sat with their children during the morning meal.

Manuel Bermudez sat across from his sons, Eduardo, 6, and Hector, 8, as they finished eating.

The start of the school year also marks the first time the boys are attending the same school. Last year, Eduardo was in kindergarten at Blue Ridge, enrolled in its bilingual program, while older brother Hector was a student at Prospect Point. Manuel said Hector, who is entering the third grade, was mainly concerned about his old friends.

"You can tell he misses his old school," he said. "He was asking me if his friends would be here, and I said I didn't know."

Hector tried to be positive. He said he believed some of his friends also made the move to Edison.

"I think I have five," he said of potential old classmates.

Edison Principal Nancy Withycombe said about 485 children were expected at the school. Children continued to trickle in with their parents even a few minutes after the official start of school.

One girl took in the sight of the new building as she crossed its front glass doors.

"I love this school," she said.

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