To a new sixth grader, Anderson Middle School feels “big.”
Bigger compared with his elementary school. Bigger than his house. Bigger than the screen of a laptop or tablet, one of the main portals to school for many students in the past year and a half.
Monday marked the first day of school in Berkley and at Anderson, a school of about 500 students in grades six to eight. Monday also meant opening day for scores of other schools statewide. Others open after Labor Day.
The 150 or so sixth graders at Anderson were launched into an entirely new experience. A group of boys who were clustered together said they felt “excited” for the day, while the building felt “big.”
Before she ran into the school building, Jessica Sturm, who is 11-year-old Temperance Schofield’s mother,called to her daughter, “Do you know your first hour?”
Temperance knelt to the ground and dug through her backpack, then held up her schedule triumphantly before heading into school.
Her parents stuck around a few minutes, excited but anxious for their daughter, starting sixth grade at a new school in a new district, after moving to Berkley from the Royal Oak district this year.
“She wasn’t talking to anybody here,” Sturm said. “Was that first day jitters?”
Sixth graders started lining up at 7:40 a.m. Doors at Anderson open at 8:05 a.m. They approached the school in every direction and manner: On bikes going full-speed, from their parents’ cars and on foot, walking in from nearby neighborhoods.
Angela Wilson held her daughter, Lexis Dawson, tightly as they waited to enter the school building.
“I’m very sad, knowing that she’s going off and doesn’t need me as much anymore,” she said.
Lexis is adjusting to a move, like Temperance. The family recently moved from the Flint area and Lexis appeared shy on Monday morning. Wilson was near tears, thinking, too, of her youngest daughter starting elementary school nearby at Rogers Elementary.
Steven Thomas, another incoming sixth grader, stood with his mom, Katherine, and winced at the weight of his backpack, loaded up with binders for the new year, exclaiming comically, “Can someone help me?”
Principal Michael Ross knows this year is still different from pre-pandemic years: There are masks to be worn all day, there are red covers over the sippers on water fountains and there is a digital health screening to be submitted each morning.
But Ross wants students to feel the kind of sensations a kid is supposed to feel on the first day of school, he said. He wants them to meet their classmates, fall into a routine and take photos outside of school.
“I’m hoping today feels like a regular first day,” he said.
He reminded the sixth graders a few times as they waited to start that the day was monumental: “You only have one first day of middle school,” Ross told them.
Just a minute before Anderson’s doors unlocked, a crush of sixth-graders stood inches away from entering.
Samara Wallace, 10, was one of the first to arrive in the morning. She stood quietly, wearing a rainbow mask, with her mom, Tamika Wallace. The mother wants her daughter to have more opportunities to socialize this year.
“We’re going to try to get back to a little bit of normalcy,” she said.
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