Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 | 7:56 p.m.
At 7 a.m., more than 320,000 students in Clark County began their march into school, marking the end of summer vacation.
The first day of school is one of mixed excitement and nerves. Older students rejoin their peers, while kindergartners leave their parents behind for the first time. Seniors enter their final year with plans to graduate, while freshmen explore their new surroundings.
The Las Vegas Sun visited Chaparral High School, Johnson Middle School and Ries Elementary School. Here are the schools' stories from the first day:
It doesn’t take long for Principal Lolo James to play the role of fashion police at Chaparral High School.
At 7 a.m., pockets of students saunter off the school bus sporting the remnants of summer break, when any outfit goes. James greets each student, wishing them a good morning, but right away, he notices a boy with his jeans sagging below his waist.
“Sir,” James said. “Pull those pants up.”
“I did,” the student said, tugging his pants back to his waist.
So begins the dress code battle between high school students and administrators. For years, teachers and administrators have fought the war of sagging jeans and bared midriffs against students.
At Chaparral, students are not allowed to bare their midriffs or wear ripped or sagging jeans, spaghetti-strap shirts or hats. In the first few minutes of the day, James and his assistant principal have stopped a teen from showing her belly-button, another for wearing jeans too low and a third for wearing a hat.
Today, the students are only getting a warning to remind them of the dress code. In a couple of days, they’ll start enforcing the rules. James hopes early enforcement will prevent too many repeat offenders. Later he'll catch at least two or three kids each period letting them know the rules. Overall, most students followed the dress code.
Those who didn't were quick to nod in understanding, but it's a long school year and the fashion battle has only just begun.
Kindergartners' first lunch
The kindergartners filed into the Ries Elementary School cafeteria wearing headbands colored with crayons that read, “This is my first day of kindergarten.”
It was only a few hours before that they had been pulled away from their parents for a day of firsts. The headbands were the crowns of their first assignment. Now, clutching lunch boxes featuring Disney princesses and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they looked around with wide eyes at their peers, facing their first lunch.
Some students were led to the hot lunch line where they were served chicken nuggets with tater tots, craisins, a cookie and choice of chocolate or regular milk. Others dug through their lunchboxes, pulling out juice boxes, Gogurts, sandwiches and Lunchables, their feet dangling from the bench.
Teachers paced behind them helping to diffuse tiny crises like a juice box that won’t open or a stubborn fruit snack package.
“Can you open this?,” one girl said clutching a packaged cookie.
“I can if you say the magic words,” the teacher said.
After a few minutes, chatter filled the room. Wrappers lined the table and kids began to goof around, making train noises and strange faces to crack up classmates.
Then it was back to class, another first completed on their journey through school.
The rule enforcers at Johnson Middle School
Wanda Hicks’ voice cut through the din of the lunchroom at Johnson Middle School and landed on her target.
“You’re crowding the line, back up,” Hicks said.
The sixth-graders standing in a bunched line for their lunch looked at her and immediately backed up. While Hicks watched the lunch lines, her partner, Aimee Palmer, patrolled the room keeping the students from running wild.
Hicks and Palmer are campus security at Johnson Middle School. Their job is to control the chaos in the hallways and lunchroom, and on the first day, that can be a difficult task. Typically, sixth-graders are rambunctious as they adjust to a new schedule, while seventh- and eighth-graders test what they can get away with.
The only way to prepare is with water, comfortable shoes and a little prayer, Palmer said.
“This is where they discover themselves,” Palmer said. “I find there is more disrespect at this age than any other.”
Still, they love meeting a new batch of students. Former students still come back to say hello to Hicks, and she has had countless students tell them their sibling or parent knows her.
They keep order with laughter, and a stern voice when required. The main rules here: Feet and backpacks under the tables, no running and keep food inside the lunchroom.
This year, everything has gone smoothly, Hicks said. Only one student needed to be forced to go to class after she refused. Meanwhile, aside from a few students sprinting around the lunchroom, everything has been relatively calm for the sixth-grade class.
Once lunch is over, the most hectic part of their day is done. Then it’s back to the hallways, where Palmer spotted a student milling about.
“Get to class,” she said.
Her voice hit the target.