Kindergarten teacher Ann Vanhemert holds a sign for first-graders as Hannah Penn reopened Wednesday.
Kindergarten teacher Ann Vanhemert holds a sign for first-graders as Hannah Penn reopened Wednesday. (John A. Pavoncello —The York Dispatch)

The registration melee in the Hannah Penn K-8 office aside, students and staff at the newly opened York City School District building were ready to start fresh.

The building, a former district middle school, was closed for two years but reopened Wednesdy to alleviate crowding at other K-8 buildings in the district and to make room for students coming into the district from New Hope Academy Charter School, which closed in June.

Ready to start: Principal Philip Livelsberger and his staff continued to put finishing touches on the building earlier this week, painting parking lot lines to direct curbside dropoff and putting the finishing touches on classrooms. As the first students began to arrive Wednesday morning, Livelsberger was placing "Welcome Back!" lettering on each side of the Hannah Penn sign off of East Boundary Avenue.

A majority of the work was finished before Livelsberger began July 7, he said, moving to Hannah Penn from a previous position as middle school principal in the Dover Area School District.

Superintendent Eric Holmes said the building was ready to reopen in January, when New Hope was first ordered to close by the state Charter School Appeal Board.

New Hope appealed, but the Commonwealth Court upheld the decision in April and the charter school's board of trustees voted to close at the end of the school year.

Last year, maintenance crews completed typical cleaning, and the district added Smart Boards and other technology to each classroom, Holmes said. The district also furnished the school with appropriate-sized furniture for the elementary classrooms, he said.


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Nerves, anticipation: A few students admitted to first-day jitters before the day began, including eighth-grader Reitzely Garcia and seventh-grader Yexiel Perez.

"I'm a little spooked but I'm going with the flow," said Yexiel, who has attended Ferguson and Devers in the past.

Seventh-grader Summer Laureano said she was reluctant for her first day.

"I miss New Hope," she said. "They need to open it up."

But other students were ready for the year to begin, including seventh-grader Victor Torres.

Victor, who previously attended Davis K-8, moved over the summer with his mother and into Hannah Penn's zone. Victor said he is especially looking forward to learning more in social studies and math this year.

Miki Kent also moved to a home on Prospect Street recently, and her two granddaughters are now attending Hannah Penn instead of Lincoln Charter School and New Hope.

Hannah Penn's opening was convenient for her family because of the location, she said.

"A lot of kids seem to be excited about it," Kent said.

Enrollment: The administration was prepared for the influx of student registration Wednesday morning, as Livelsberger said Tuesday the staff planned to have four people handling new students in the office. Registration stood at around 652 students Tuesday, Livelsberger said, but new students continued to filter into homerooms throughout Wednesday morning.

Livelsberger said the school has fielded numerous calls over the summer, with parents asking whether Hannah Penn is still a middle school, where their children will be placed and other questions about the redistricting.

"They've been concerned, not angry," he said.

Past the office and into classrooms, teachers started the year.

Some, including Lena Cordero and Vanessa Wildasin, are coming into the district from New Hope, and said hello to a few students they recognized from the school.

"I'm really excited to be here," Cordero said to her sixth-grade homeroom, after explaining she'd taught for the district for a few years before moving to New Hope.

Moving forward: In two weeks, Livelsberger said he expects to be "as settled as settled can be," having worked out the kinks of starting any new school year. And even before the settled feeling comes, he and the staff will be starting in on several initiatives to help kids succeed, including remediation and an after-school tutoring program.

On top of that, Superintendent Holmes said each K-8 school will be phasing in a mentoring program for any new students and those affected by the redistricting. The program, run in conjunction with the teachers' association, will pair each child with a staff member for intentional follow-up about the changes, Holmes said.

The programs might have slight variations depending on the school, Holmes added, but all will be similar in nature.

Aside from a formal program, Livelsberger said a similar outlook will happen each day. Teachers are encouraged to sit down with students during interventions or other times outside of structured lessons to ensure students are adapting to the Hannah Penn lifestyle.

"We have it ingrained in our daily activities," Livelsberger said.

District-wide, Holmes said he's ready to have students back in the buildings, with a clean slate for everyone, and to have the opportunity to keep developing programs to teach students well.

"A lot of people are depending on us to do right by their kids," he said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.