Recess was No. 1 in the minds of many first-graders at Red Lion's Pleasant View Elementary school during lunch. After making it through the mild confusion of picking between a hot dog or chicken fingers and learning how to punch their PIN numbers into the cafeteria system, getting out to the playground was the pinnacle of the first-day excitement.
"I'm playing on the monkey bars," said first-grader Connor Ray.
Some of Connor's first-grade classmates said they were also excited about their teachers and about writing. But Red Lion's half-day kindergarten program doesn't include lunch, or the monkey bars, so incoming first-graders had a lot more on their minds than learning math problems on the first day of school.
"We practiced one day," said Chase Oller of the cafeteria process. "This is for real."
Back to school: The Red Lion Area and Northeastern school districts were the first public schools in York County to begin the school year Tuesday, kicking off another year of expanding programs, anticipated field trips and preparing students for tests and what lies beyond the classroom.
"The energy is at an all-time high on the first day," said Pleasant View Principal Libby Stambaugh.
At Northeastern's high school, students were ready to get the year started, but a few lamented the short summer vacation. Northeastern's district had the shortest summer in the county, getting out of school on June 16 and returning Tuesday.
Sophomore Dakota Gilbeau said he was "very disappointed" to wake up at 6 a.m. to realize summer was already over, but said he was excited for the year.
"I'm looking forward to coming back to try my best and to actually learn something," he said.
Classes, goals: The day was a typical start for the year, said principal Mathew Gay, who walked the halls greeting students and helping wayward freshmen find their classrooms. Aside from the mini-crisis of student agendas not being delivered until Tuesday afternoon and a few other minor details, the focus was on getting classes and programs started.
One of those classes is a new Advanced Placement Computer Science class, which will include teaching students to code computer programs and create unique codes toward the end of the semester, said teacher Tana Kling. Some of the 20 students enrolled already know some coding, but a few will start from scratch, Kling said.
Advanced, basic skills: Other classes in the Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM fields, are continuing to prepare students for college, Gay said. One of those is the Introduction to Drafting and Engineering Design class, which teaches students the basics of finishing design drawings by hand and in AutoCAD, software used in the architecture and engineering fields.
The school also has several classes to help students master the basics, including an intensive algebra section that will meet every day in the year to go over information for the Algebra Keystone exams. That's essentially a double dose of math for the year, Gay said, and students in Bryan James' classroom Tuesday were already reviewing concepts such as perfect squares and square roots.
Other classes include reading sections, which often serve as a support for students who need an extra literary boost.
Future plans: Several Northeastern students said they're looking forward to the sports they play and other programs this year. Desiree Rosario is hoping for "smooth sailing," for her senior year, she said.
"I want to end it with a bang," said classmate Scarlett Malave.
And for some, including senior Payton Hauck, plans for after high school are already set. Hauck said she'll be attending Boston University next fall on a basketball scholarship.
Before she leaves, she added, she'd like to beat Dover this year, a key rivalry for her team.
Field trips: Emma Easton, sixth-grader at Pleasant View, said she was looking forward to a field trip to Biztown, an annual rite of passage for all sixth-graders at the school. The Junior Achievement center in York serves as a mock city where students learn the basics of creating their own companies, paying taxes and other business practices.
And classmate Noel Stump said she's looking forward to learning more in math and reading, especially more about fractions.
Stambaugh, Pleasant View's principal, said hosting the school's meet-the-teacher night Monday evening allowed student excitement to grow for the first day, as students could see their classrooms and teachers before the official kickoff Tuesday morning. Plus, she said, it helped orient students to a new room in the building.
"They seemed to know where they were going this morning," Stambaugh said. "They didn't forget."
Several York County public schools begin Wednesday morning, including Dallastown and Hanover Public's orientations for ninth-graders and most grades at Eastern York, Spring Grove, York Suburban, York City and West York.