At the end of the first school bus ride of their lives for many new students at Madison Heights Elementary School on Tuesday, a sign saying “Welcome Class of 2032 and 2033” greeted the youngsters starting their new journey.

Staff gathered to shower the students with a warm welcome by shaking pool noodles, bells, instruments and pom-poms for the kindergarten and pre-K students. A short while later while coloring in class, kindergarten student Micah Hilliard said he was positively affected by the greeting.

“They were shaking for me,” Micah said of the strong show of support.

Laying out the welcome mat for first-year students in the county’s elementary schools, two middle schools and high school was the focus of Amherst County Public Schools’ Transition Day. The event, a first for the division, gave pre-K, kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade students a half-day to start the school year off on their own without the overwhelming presence of an entire student body.

Hallways were much less crowded as first-year students got the lay of the land and explored their new settings.

Superintendent Rob Arnold said the division said the new event is meant to boost the students’ first-day experience and will continue in future years.

“Transitions are extremely stressful for all people, especially children,” Arnold said. “The transition day allows students to start building relationships with their peers and teachers as well as acclimating to their new building. This happens on a day when the rest of the student population is home and this ultimately provides a more stress-free environment to ensure their transition is successful.”

Madison Heights Elementary School Assistant Principal Jeremy Hutchinson said the first-year students toured the building, took part in team-building activities, met their art and music teachers and received a snack in the cafeteria.

“The students know when they come into this building that they are part of a community that cares about them,” Hutchinson said. “We’re building relationships.”

He said the event also benefits parents new to the school experience and helps ease nervousness for families as students put their best foot forward in starting a new year in a more relaxed environment.

“It’s just a day for them to figure out how school works,” Hutchinson said.

While all schools had an open house last Thursday to get students and their families oriented with their new surroundings, Hutchinson said the transitional day is a way for the first-timers to spend several hours getting to know their classmates a day early. When the fast-paced first day starts for the entire school, the first-timers can be more comfortable and at ease. Amherst County schools begin the new school year today.

Madison Heights Elementary School Principal Marvin McGinnis said the transitional day experience helps get relationship-building off to a positive start.

“We can only get better from here,” McGinnis said.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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