Apache Junction High School got the band back together Monday morning — literally and figuratively.
Students returning to campus for the resumption of in-person learning were serenaded by the high school band, which performed from 6:45 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. March 22. It felt — and sounded — like a beginning, as if it was the first day of school in a new school year.
“Oh my God, it’s amazing,” said Apache Junction principal Dr. Chris Lineberry, as he watched the students congregate and eventually make their way to their classrooms. “It is like Opening Day. The kids are real happy to be back and I’m thrilled to have them. We have missed them terribly.”
Similar scenes — albeit minus the band — were playing out across the five schools in the Apache Junction Unified School District. Although masks were required, it’s safe to say there were a lot of smiling faces at Apache Junction High School, Cactus Canyon Junior High School and the three elementary schools, Four Peaks, Desert Vista and Peralta Trail.
“Even the parents were smiling,” said Four Peaks Principal Phyllis Bellemare. “They were very happy to see their children jump out of the car.”
School staff went out of their way to greet and then acclimatize students as they returned to in-person learning. At Cactus Canyon, students were given copies of their class schedule and maps of campus. Principal Chad Cantrell walked the campus between classes, making sure students knew where they were supposed to go next.
When students got off the bus or out of their cars at Desert Vista, they were greeted with music and the sight of Principal Pat Smith waving pom-poms. Peralta Trail Principal Natalie Clement said staff members walked students directly to their teacher or class because some kids had forgotten where their classes were located and others had been online learning all year and had yet to set foot on campus.
“It was great to see how excited they were to be back and dancing in the courtyard,” Ms. Clement said. “First thing I did this morning I asked a second-grade class for a thumbs up if they were excited to be back and all thumbs went up high. Many of them held up both thumbs.”
All five principals were encouraged by the number of students who returned to school for in-person learning. Dr. Lineberry said approximately 67% of Apache Junction’s students were back on campus, Cactus Canyon had 82% of its students on campus and all three elementary school principals had at least 70% in-person attendance.
“It was amazing to walk out to the front of the school this morning and see so many students excited to see me and waving hello,” Ms. Smith said. “Their smiles shined through their eyes and many shared with me how happy they were to be back at Desert Vista.”
Editor’s note: Scott Bordow is the director of communications and community engagement for Apache Junction Unified School District.