MANATEE — Sirrkia Webster spent a month picking out the trendy outfit she wore Monday on the first day of her senior year at Palmetto High School.
What she didn’t take time to do was check the weather forecast before she walked out the door that morning.
“My feet are wet and nasty and my hair’s all bushy from all this rain,” said Webster, who wore a flower skirt, brown tank top and stylish sandals as she stood inside the school’s main office Monday morning.
Amid a heavy downpour that began earlier that morning and lingered into the afternoon, more than 42,000 Manatee County School District students — most gripping umbrellas and donning rain jackets — sloshed into their classrooms for the first day of the 2010-11 school calendar year.
The rain resulted in more parents driving their children to school, school leaders said. But other than that, the day went smoothly.
At the start of the day at Miller Elementary, mothers stood under umbrellas and kissed their children goodbye as they dropped them at the school on Manatee Avenue.
Inside the school, pre-kindergarten teacher Peggy Welch greeted young Jake Recor, who wore a navy blue raincoat.
Like many of the district’s high schools, most of Palmetto High School’s classrooms are reached from the outside, so Webster spent most of the day trekking in and out of puddles. Had she known it was going to rain the entire day she would have worn different shoes, she said.
Melissa Salinas, who spent most of the morning behind the desk at the main office for class credit, agreed with her classmate that the weather was a bummer for their first day back.
“Every person that comes in the door is complaining about being wet,” said 17-year-old Salinas.
The rain may have dampened some students’ attitudes, but most district teachers, including Lincoln Middle School physical education instructor Chad Sutton, remained optimistic about the day.
Monday was the 23-year-old’s first day on the job as a teacher in Manatee County.
The new hire said he was excited about what the new year would bring. He used to be on the other side of the desk as a student at the school on 17th Street East in Palmetto.
Now he stands alongside 13 teachers who worked at the school when he attended it about five years ago.
“I’m going to bring some new energy,” he said, then smiled. “My goal is to get these kids to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Outside Sutton’s office on a break between classes, student Daphne Alvarez, 13, sat on a set of gym bleachers.
“I’m excited about my new eighth-grade privileges,” said Alvarez, “I get to take more electives this year, like my yearbook class.”
Back at Palmetto High during the afternoon hours, Principal Willie Clark stood inside the school’s inner courtyard staring at the rain. He said a few freshmen didn’t know which of the school’s nearly 16 buses to board after dismissal, so he had been scrambling to make sure they got on the right one.
“Other than that, it’s been pretty smooth today,” Clark said.
That same vibe came from Lincoln Middle School Principal Curtis Davis as he stood inside the school’s cafeteria.
“Real smooth,” Davis said as he started to dismiss a group of his new sixth-grade students. “I’d say it’s been a success.”
Unfortunately for students, the weatherman is predicting rain every day this week.
Natalie Neysa Alund, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7095.