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New school year, new school:  Rock Ridge High’s first day

First block physical education students listen as they’re given instructions. Times Mirror/Rick Wasser
Rock Ridge High School halls filled with uncertain but eager faces on Sept. 2. That day, there was no hierarchy in which the freshmen were lowest on the totem pole. Everyone – freshmen, sophomores, juniors, teachers – were in their first day at a new school.

It was, after all, the school's inaugural day.

For junior Grace Holske, the excitement of the first day was mixed with nerves over having to make new friends and find her classes in unfamiliar territory.

“I'm really excited for the new school and the new opportunities,” she said. “It's nice meeting new people … I mean, lot's of people here came with their friends, and I didn't really. They came with their groups so I have to make new friends gain, and I'm a little nervous about that.”

Holske volunteered to change schools from Briar Woods High School and be part of Rock Ridge's first graduating senior class in 2016. She made the switch last minute for the chance to work with the track coach, as she wants to run in college.

The 14th high school to open in Loudoun County, Rock Ridge wasn't the only school going through its first day. Cardinal Ridge Elementary, Trailside Middle and Middleburg's Community Charter join the high school as the newest additions to the county school family.

While students essentially practiced their first day at Rock Ridge's Flight Day on Aug. 26, the actual start of the year was disorienting.

As the traditional school bell wasn't included in the building's design, teachers and administrators reminded students of the time and hastened them to their first class block.

A flurry of confusion left some stragglers in the hall wondering where the English wing was or how to get to their schedules in the first place.

Freshman Alec Petry was excited for his first day, especially, as he commented to his friends who also were late for class, it's the first time he's been able to sleep in for school since he can remember.

“I'm super nervous but this is an awesome school,” he said. “I still don't know where the lockers are. I just hope I don't have last lunch, because that would suck … I gotta find my class. I have no friends in any of my classes.”

As Flight Day commemorated the school's community and future, Sept. 2 did away with the ceremony and had students and teachers getting straight to business.

“Really today is all about taking care of business, really getting to work,” said Principal John Duellman.

Paul Koch's ninth grade English class got right to work. Along with going through some general rules for the classroom, he opened his class with a brainstorming session in hopes of making his students think about detail.

“Imagine what your life will be like at 24 [years old],” he said to his class. “As you continue to brainstorm, you add details.”

Science teachers had the first block free to prepare their labs for incoming classes and hold department meetings.

Myron Hanke, who teaches physics and biology, prepared a study on observation and critical thinking when only parts of a whole situation are visible.

“What they [scientists] do is they use those kinds of patterns [to form hypotheses]. And it's a very scientific approach, and they [his students] learn it from day one … They're constantly going to be making observations, and this just sharpens the brain cells to say, 'what's going on here.'”

Pinning down the exact number of how many young minds came to be molded Sept. 2 was difficult. Over the past weeks and into Sept. 2, students were still registering for classes.

Director of School Counseling Kevin Terry estimated two students registered every hour last week. He said there were probably anywhere between 850 and 900 students at Rock Ridge on the first day.

Rock Ridge's first official day comes after hard work and long hours. But Duellman said it couldn't be more worth it.

“This is far and above the most exciting thing I've done in my career … I've loved every single minute of this ... And now we actually get to see the fruits of our labor. So this is fantastic. I couldn't be more thrilled.”


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