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Students Leave Summer Behind, Go Back to School

Westlake school year off to an early start, but fortunately without extreme heat.

Natalie Bert beamed Thursday afternoon when she spoke of her first day of third grade at .

"It was really fun," she said. "There wasn't a lot of homework, but we had games and talked."

Students like Natalie weren't the only ones excited about heading back to school.

"I'm 38 years old and, between my own school days and working in education, I have had 32 first days of school," said Paul Wilson, principal of . "I still love the first day of school, and seeing the excitement in everyone's faces. This is like my Super Bowl."

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started the 2012-13 school year Thursday, a week ahead of many schools in the area. The early start was done to to accomodate finishing the new .

"Summer vacation seemed a little short this year," said Carolyn Bert, Natalie's mother.

Between the shorter summer and the improvement projects going on at the middle school this summer, Wilson had a lot on his plate.

"Normally, we're very open-door to students and parents in the summer," he said. "But with the school closed, I had to tell them to stay away. That was hard. It made communication more important than ever. I made a point of regular email updates, even if they were a bit long, to make sure parents felt they were in-touch with the school."

Staying focused and organized was essential for all the staff, Wilson said.

"The custodians did a great job staying on top of things," he said. "And the crew involved in the improvement project, from on down, were great about communicating."

Wilson was breathing a sigh of relief as the students settled in Wednesday morning.

"Only a few buses were late, but that's something we can work on," he said. "The only glitches were small things, like schedule problems and students having a problem getting their lockers open. That's a good start. I'll take it."

The biggest challenge for the district, superintendant Dan Keenan said, was the traffic for Dover Elementary and Lee Burneson Middle Schools.

Both schools now use a single entrance, with a new traffic light installed.

For the most part, Keenan said, it went well despite the challenge of getting almost 1,000 students in through one entrance point.

By the way, were parked in the Dover Congregational UCC parking lot on Tuesday, so pay attention to the traffic light when you approach that area.

A new traffic light will be installed in the next 30 to 60 days, Keenan said, with a left-turn signal.

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