ST. LUCIE COUNTY — First-grader Jayce Howard was looking forward to learning his numbers and ABC's this year.
“I want to be a police officer when I grow up,” the 6-year-old said proudly.
Jayce got plenty of inspiration Wednesday for his anticipated future career when he arrived at Chester A. Moore Elementary School for the first day of school.
More than 400 kindergarten through fifth grade students were greeted by police officers, firemen and teachers as they funneled in through a Tunnel of Hope at Chester A Moore Elementary School on 29th Street in Fort Pierce for the first day of school.
St. Lucie Public Schools, with an enrollment of 40,314 students, returned from summer break Wednesday to in-person classes — the closest to a "normal" first day of school since 2019.
There's no mask mandate, and quarantine periods have been shortened from 10 days to five.
Many parents were eager to get their kids back to school. Some looked forward to a more “normal year,” citing hopes of COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.
Others, such as Jayce’s grandmother Tya Fuller, remained cautious, packing hand sanitizer and extra masks in backpacks.
Students seemed excited about returning to school.
C.A. Moore fifth-grader Alaysia Walk shared aspirations of becoming a singer.
Her sister, Honesty Dorsey, who is entering the first grade, was thrilled to get into the classroom.
“I want to be kind and listen to directions to get myself into second grade,” Honesty said.
It was smooth sailing as students came back from summer break ready to take on learning, said C.A. Moore Principal Thelma Jackson.
The advancement via individual determination program, a college-preparatory course that teaches elementary students organization, time management, goal setting, confidence and team building, was one program Jackson said she looks forward to.
One challenge this school year, she added, will be to further improve the schools rating.
“Last year, we increased our school grade from an F to a C, and we want to keep accelerating even though there's changes in the standards and the state assessments,” Jackson said. “For a school that’s considered to be low performing, we want to rebrand and let everybody in the district and in the state know that we're doing great things here.”
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The day started with no issues, said district spokesperson Lydia Martin.
"Buses were rolling. Everything seems to be going very smooth," Martin said.
St. Lucie County expects 2,974 teachers this year. Last week, the district still had about 60 vacancies to fill, but as of Tuesday, that number had dwindled to 13, Martin said in an email.
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Buses may run late the first few days of school as drivers and students settle into the new school year. For transportation issues, call 772-204-7433.
For general information, call 772-429-3600.
Colleen Wixon is the education reporter for TCPalm.com. Contact her at Colleen.Wixon@TCPalm.com or 772-978-2235.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: St. Lucie Schools welcome back students for 2022-2023 school year