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Berkeley students back to school

By Ben Lumpkin Daily Planet staff
Thursday August 30, 2001

Dave Lyons, president of the Rosa Parks Elementary School PTA, thought he was ready for the first day of school. 

Lyons took his twin daughters along for a school clean up session over the weekend so they would have an opportunity to meet their new teacher before the first day of school. Both are entering the first grade this year. 

In their father’s presence, the girls didn’t seemed the least bit fazed by the change in classrooms and teachers, Lyons said. But Wednesday morning, just minutes after the first day of school had officially begun, one came running to Lyons where he stood greeting people at the front gate to the school. Tears streamed down her face. 

“She couldn’t find Room 14 and she didn’t know where anything was,” Lyons said a half-hour later, after the crisis had been resolved. 

“As a parent, you have a scenario all worked out,” Lyons said. “But you’re not 7, and you do not know what it’s like to be 7!” 

After a summer spent hanging out with friends, visiting family across the country, and attending summer camps, more than 9,000 Berkeley K-12 students headed back to school Wednesday. Parents and guardians gathered at schools throughout the city to usher children into school – and assure themselves that all was well.  

Frances Van, 72, and Sue Brown, 68 – both great aunts of students entering Rosa Parks this year – met for the first time as they waited in front of the school to see that the children arrived safely on the bus. 

“I let her ride the bus for the first time, so I decided to come here and make sure she made it,” Van said. 

“This has been a new start for the both of us,” Van added, explaining that her own daughter is now 38 years old and it’s been a while since she’s gone through the whole first-day-of-school experience. 

Brown said the children she’s responsible for are not only new to Rosa Parks, but new to Berkeley, having just moved here from Oregon. But Brown said she wasn’t too worried about the adjustment they would have to make. 

“I’ve heard good reports about Rosa Parks,” Brown said. 

Mira Santos, a “parent advocate” in Rosa Parks’ Family Resource Center and the mother of two students at the school, said her children could hardly wait to get back. 

“My kids are way ready,” Santos said. “Summers are great, but I think the routine and structure of the school day, for my kids, works pretty well.” 

Fourth grader Corey Cisney and Alex Stevenson greeted each other in front of the school Wednesday after summers spent traveling in different parts of the country. They said they were glad to be back among their friends at Rosa Parks. But Stevenson confessed to being a little nervous about the start of fourth grade. 

“They start piling up the homework, because you’re about to go into middle school,” Stevenson said. “I think it’s going to be harder.” 


Flawless opening at Willard 

Over at Willard Middle School Wednesday, they were having one of the smoothest first days of school in recent memory, according to John Williams, a student safety officer at the school for nearly 20 years. 

With a new principal and vice-principal, and a whole cast of new teachers, there is change afoot at Willard, Williams said. 

“There are a lot of new faces, and a lot of new energy,” he said. “The change is good.” 

Willard English and History teacher Doug Dohrer, a new teacher at Willard hired just a few weeks ago, said he spent the first day of school just trying to get to know his students.  

Middle school students have a tendency to spend the first day of school in “stunned” silence, Dohrer said. So he organized a game where they would have to go from desk to desk introducing themselves to each other.  

The first homework assignment for Dohrer’s students is to write a letter to their new teacher, giving him some biographical information, likes and dislikes, etc. 

“Things like, ‘Don’t ever call in me in class because I’m shy,’” Dohrer said, only half joking. “I need to know those things.” 


Best-dressed meet city’s finest at BHS 

And at Berkeley High School Wednesday, teenagers sporting the latest in youth fashion arrived on campus to find police stationed near the school’s entrances. A rumor had circulated that the first day of school could be marked by a shooting, said Principal Frank Lynch. 

“Once you have that information, you have to plan for it like it’s going to happen,” he said. 

Far from dealing with any violence Wednesday, however, Lynch spent part of his afternoon chasing students into class after they returned late from lunch period. 

“Perfect attendance this year,” Lynch exhorted one group of students. “No tardies.” 

Lynch has launched a new truancy policy at the school this year that spells out clear consequences for what will happen when students miss class repeatedly. The absence of such a policy led to lax enforcement of attendance, according to many Berkeley High parents and staff.