Saint Stephen’s, Bradenton Christian welcome students for 2016-17 year

Although public school students and teachers have already got about a week of school under their belts, students are still feeling those first day jitters at other schools around the county.

On Tuesday, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School welcomed more than 700 students for the first day of school. On Wednesday, Bradenton Christian School will welcome its students back for a new year, with a new building as well.

“It’s nice to come back and see friends,” said Hailey Mallard, who started ninth grade at Saint Stephen’s.

Saint Stephen’s

After successfully sending students to classrooms, Head of School Jan Pullen held court with a small group of kindergarten parents in the library for “Kleenex and Coffee.” Similar to “Boo-Hoo Breakfasts,” the goal was to make sure parents felt secure leaving their children for the day.

Dana Gerling, whose daughter Lilly started kindergarten at the school, said she was feeling OK, but wasn’t sure how long that feeling would last.

“I may cry in the car,” she said.

The Gerling family is new to Saint Stephen’s this year, with Gerling’s older daughter, Grace, starting second grade at the school. After a few years at Witt Elementary, Gerling said it was time for a change of pace.

“It feels like there’s a real heartbeat here,” she said.

Trevor Donnelly, a 17-year-old senior, echoed that sentiment, calling his “last first day of school” at Saint Stephen’s a bittersweet day.

“There’s a feeling of belonging,” he said. “I think that it’s a good feeling to start the end almost.”

Bradenton Christian

With empty hallways and finishing construction touches being put in place, sisters Reese and Delaney DeHaan were busy filling their lockers Tuesday in the brand new middle school building at Bradenton Christian School, less than 24 hours before the school opened.

English Language Arts and social studies teacher Dawn Hrynkiw, who just moved to Bradenton from Jupiter, had boxes and boxes of books left to unpack before 8 a.m. but she was undeterred.

“I feel like I hit the jackpot,” she said.

Connected by a covered walkway to the high school building — which also got a sprucing up during the summer — the new middle school building will hold about 220 students. The total campus enrollment is up over 800 this year, a new high for the school, Superintendent Dan Vande Pol said. The school has come a long way since January, he said.

“We were sand in January,” he said. “You can’t get a bathroom remodeled in that time.”

Vande Pol said the “crown jewels” of the $3.7 million, two-story building include a chemistry lab and the Bible study class, which includes stand-up desks for the students.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

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