For the first day of classes at Johnsburg Junior High School Tuesday, students had a red carpet reception.
The incoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders were welcomed back with an actual red carpet, balloons, music and the school’s Wildcat mascot to kick off the year. Students waited to enter the school by class, with much fanfare, after the first bell rang.
“For me, it is a celebration of the new school year and recognizing success,” Principal Jamison Pearce said. “We want them to be successful and want them to be here,” he said of the 342 students expected.
Pearce was named as the new principal for the 2022-23 school year back in April. He visited the school before classes let out for the summer and used the break to get to know who he would be working with, Pearce said.
Over the summer, either Pearce or his Assistant Principal Brad Winn called every family with a student at the school.
“Dr. Pearce is amazing,” said Dawn Barrett, who dropped off her 7th-grade daughter Tuesday morning. She particularly noted the calls to each of the families.
“He asked about each child, told us what to expect, asked what their names are and what they go by. It was a good first impression,” Barrett said.
That good impression extended to the opening day festivities. It was his understanding, Pearce said, that there had been first day events before, sometimes with balloons and other times with music.
“This is the first time we put it all together,” he said.
The festivities are something he has always done as an administrator, Pearce added.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
At his first teaching job, at Cary’s Prairie Hill School, he was a physical education instructor who also tutored students in math.
On Aug. 17, the Johnsburg school hosted an annual “locker day,” inviting parents and children to come and meet their teachers, find their classrooms and leave their school supplies in their lockers. The school followed that up with a barbecue in the parking lot. About 80% of the families participated and they served 660 hot dogs, Pearce said.
Sophia Barrett, age 12 and entering seventh grade, said she met her new principal at locker day. “He is super nice,” Sophia said.
She and other students said they might not be ready for the summer to be over, even if they are ready for school to start.
“I can’t sleep in anymore,” said Johnathan Clark, 13.
Karen Crutcher was dropping off her daughter, Connie Souder, for her first day of sixth grade.
She didn’t know there would be a celebration for the students coming back, noting that it has been while since she dropped a student off. Her next-youngest child is 27.
“I just hope she learns a lot and has fun,” Crutcher said.