CRESTVIEW — Following a drenching weekend, sunny skies have welcomed Gators, Bullpups, Panthers, Hoboes, Owls, Eagles, Aviators, Cougars, Mustangs and Bulldogs back to their halls of academia.
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Teachers and staff waited in hallways and walkways on Monday to guide returning and new north Okaloosa students to their classrooms, and lend an occasional hand.
At Bob Sikes Elementary School, music teacher Gayle Vickers helped fourth-grader Tatem Enders find the right walkway to her classroom.
"It's going real smoothly," Vickers said. "It's because parents showed up at orientation and know where to take their children."
Lewis and Emma Prewitt stopped for a moment as they entered Riverside Elementary School so their parents could snap their photo in front of the school's sign.
"I'm the kindergartner and she's the second grader," Lewis explained matter-of-factly.
Walker Elementary School Principal Jeanine Kirkland credited her staff for extraordinary efforts preparing the school for opening.
"We had teachers still here late last night doing the finishing touches," she said Monday morning. "Everybody's excited and ready to go."
Norah Martin, beginning her first day as an Owl third-grader, looked forward to working multiplication problems and participating in spelling bees, which, she said, are "great."
Riverside Principal Tammy Matz, one of several new area principals, credited her school's educators for assuring a smooth transition to her new position.
"I cannot tell you what an amazing staff this is," Matz said. "They have made this so easy."
At Baker School, a steady stream of moms, dads and guardians guided kindergartners through high-schoolers to their rooms.
"Parents are walking with their children to school,” Principal Thomas Shipp said. “It will be this way for at least the first couple of days.”
Some parents said they were more anxious than their children, who for the most part were excited to begin their new school year.
"It's exciting and (I'm) a little nervous," Tia Donahoo said while dropping her daughter, Nia, off at Antioch Elementary School for her first day of kindergarten.
"She is excited so I am fine with that," Donahoo said. "She has a friend in there so she is happy."
Crestview Police and school crossing guards reported minimal traffic problems apart from the usual slowing through school zones.
"They (moved) really well, especially for the first day of school,” crossing guard Carolyn Hulion, stationed at Crestview High School, said.
Police stopped several drivers who sped through school zones, community policing officer Sam Kimmons said.
"Our traffic unit was pulling them over," he said. "They were getting them one right after the other. Basically, it was people not paying attention. We get a lot of people from out of state who don't know it's a school zone."
"It takes about a week for them to get acclimated to the school zones again," crossing guard Dave Gansel said.
Gansel, who has halted traffic for crossing Bulldogs for seven years, said he was glad to see students again, many of whom paused to greet him.
"These high school kids are very polite," he said. "They say, 'Thank you' and 'Have a nice day.'"
News Bulletin staff writer Matthew Brown contributed to this story.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.