SOUTH WHITLEY — Back to school for Whitko Community Schools was last week, marking the beginning of a historic transition for the district.

Older students were the first to attend Whitko Jr./Sr. High School, as the school board combined the middle and high schools in an effort to conserve funding. Seventh-12th graders are in the high school building, and sixth graders will remain at the elementary schools for another year.

“We’re really excited that we are moving to a 7-12 configuration here. I think that was the responsible thing to do,” remarked Principal John Snyder of Whitko Jr/Sr High School. “Educationally, it’s a home run because of all the programming we’re able to continue. We’re able to offer more programming to our junior high students, and so educationally, this is really going to be an outstanding move for us.”

At Pierceton Elementary School, Principal Mike McClain said, “the excitement has been building. The previous week, we had our Pierceton Town Festival. We got to see a ton of kids out on the parade route and our teachers walked the parade so I’m excited to see the excitement on the kids’ faces as they are getting back with their teachers and getting back into the classroom.”

McClain went on to share his enthusiasm for student leadership happening on campus through programming offered by PES such as the Junior Tech Team.

“With kids knowing the technology like they do, they can come in and help out the individual students.”

South Whitley Elementary School Principal Bryan Emmert also shared his joy for the big day’s arrival.

“This year with our consolidation, we will be having sixth grade at our building. So it’s kind of exciting that we will be having our own sixth grade athletics, hosting some of our own home events, and our students and those teams will be traveling.”

South Whitley elementary began the big day with its tradition of lining up outside of the building and then waving goodbye to moms and dads as students entered the building for the first time this year. The tradition has become a favorite among community members.

Whitko Community Schools’ new Interim Superintendent Nick Eccles enjoyed the day and shared on an important topic, building student relationships.

“The number one thing that we want to do is try to form positive relationships with our students. We had a faculty meeting where we talked about not only educating students, but really getting to know our students.” said Eccles. “At this size school, with the size of classes that we have, our faculty has a great opportunity to not only educate but truly make a difference in the lives of our kids.”

The 2018 school year will be the first year for Whitko to see the fruits of its labor by consolidating its school system.