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Let the learning begin!

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 26, 2009
  • East County
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MANATEE COUNTY — From backpacks and bus routes to new principals and notebook paper, the new school year swept through the East County with fervor Monday.

More than 12,000 East County students flooded the area’s 15 Manatee public schools. As they arrived, teachers, assistants and administrators — including four new principals — were waiting to greet them.

Several schools hosted special events to celebrate the new year. Braden River Elementary, which began an $8.3 million renovation project over the summer, invited Home Depot to the school for a special “extreme makeover project.” Hammers connected to nails as each student constructed their own toolbox.

At Gullett Elementary, teary-eyed parents peeked through windows to catch one last glimpse of their kindergartners before leaving the building.

Just a few miles away, Lakewood Ranch High School Principal Linda Nesselhauf received a box of doughnuts from a student whose father was a former student when Nesselhauf taught at Bayshore High. With a firm grasp on her walkie-talkie, Nesselhauf and her administrative team helped students get to their first classes smoothly.

“I think we look pretty good,” she said. “The student parking lot was clear, and all the students were on time. I met the first student in the courtyard at 6:30 a.m."

“This is an exciting morning,” Nesselhauf said. “The teachers are excited to be here. … I love the smiles.”
The East County’s other new principals — Bashaw’s Dr. Ron Hirst, Freedom’s Jim Mennes and McNeal’s Norma Scott — all echoed Nesselhauf’s enthusiasm.

“I do a lot of running, and I felt all night last night like I was at the starting line,” Mennes said. “It’s been like that since July 13 when I got here, and I’ve just been waiting for the bang to go off telling you it’s time to go. It’s the waiting part that’s the hardest because that’s when you second-guess everything. But luckily, I’m surrounded by great people.”

Scott addressed her kindergartners as school started and told them that it was her first day, too.

“I think it went really well,” she said. “It’s always hard for the kindergarten parents. People were in a great mood. Everybody’s being positive.”

For more Back-to-School photos, see our gallery here.


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