York Suburban High School teacher Aly Tapp sets up her classroom Thursday at the school. A 15-year teaching veteran, Tapp educates 10th- and 11th-graders.
York Suburban High School teacher Aly Tapp sets up her classroom Thursday at the school. A 15-year teaching veteran, Tapp educates 10th- and 11th-graders. Suburban is one of the districts that uses a staggered start to help new students acclimate. (Bill Kalina)

Any former high-school freshman knows the

  feeling: being lost in a sea of lockers, teachers and unfamiliar faces. But more and more area school districts are using a split opening to combat those first-day nerves.

Opening in this way sends ninth-graders and other newbies to school first to get them acclimated, and it's part of a national high school transition program called Link Crew, which allows juniors and seniors to mentor their underclassmen.

It was first implemented in the area by Southern York County School District in 2007, said superintendent Thomas Hensley. A wave of other York County districts followed, adopting the program as well, he said.

"Since that time, we've had several other districts come to visit us," Hensley said.

Fellow York Suburban teacher Amy Kendrick prepares a bulletin board for freshman and senior English students as she starts her 22nd year teaching.
Fellow York Suburban teacher Amy Kendrick prepares a bulletin board for freshman and senior English students as she starts her 22nd year teaching. (Bill Kalina)

The interactive program uses welcoming and team-building exercises to show new students around, he said.

"They're coming from all different areas ... and they're coming to a new building," Hensley said. "And we've received positive feedback from the youngsters who do it."

It's all about creating a sense of unity throughout the school, added assistant superintendent Sandra Lemmon.

"The intention of the program is to create a culture where every student ... (feels a) connectedness with other classmates," she said.

Around the county: Other participating school districts include Dover, York Suburban, Dallastown and several others, said Jason Conway, Dover Area School District assistant superintendent.

The program also serves as an anti-bullying device that allows students to look out for each other, he said. His district also holds a split start for incoming seventh-graders using a similar transition program called Where Everybody Belongs.

"It provides an immediate support system for students to their new school," Conway said. "In addition, the programs leverage the positive skill sets of our student leaders."

And York Suburban School District extends the split start to even more students, said superintendent Kate Orban.

"We do it for students new to the district or those students that are beginning kindergarten or our middle school or our high school and transfer students so that they have a day of more intense orientation," she said.

In effect, the new students learn the building and transportation system, meet their teachers and begin to become a part of the school, Orban said.

"So it works for us to help them transition more smoothly into our district," she said.

Dates for going back to school

Back-to-school dates for York County school districts:

WEDNESDAY

Central York

Dallastown (freshmen only, orientation from 7:45 a.m. to noon)

Dover (K-7, 9)

Hanover (freshmen orientation)

Eastern York

Red Lion (1-12)

South Eastern

Spring Grove

West York

York Suburban (K-6, 9, new high school and middle school students)

THURSDAY

Dallastown (K-8, 10-12)

Dover (8, 10-12)

Hanover (K-8, 10-12)

Southern (K-9)

York Suburban (all students)

FRIDAY

Red Lion (K)

Southern (10-12)

MONDAY, AUG. 26

Northern York

South Western (K-9)

West Shore

York City (1-12)

TUESDAY, AUG. 27

Northeastern

South Western (10-12)

York City (K)

-- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.