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Dancing principal, pep rallies: Lakota takes pressure off first day of school

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Lakota Local Schools opened classes Aug. 16 with fun programs to greet the district's 16,500 students.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school district opened today with adults high-fiving kids and a principal who danced with students.

Welcome to Lakota Local Schools’ new kind of opening day.

The 16,500-student school system, which is the eighth largest in Ohio, swung the doors open Thursday on its 23 schools throughout Butler County’s West Chester and Liberty townships.

ExploreMORE: Lakota officials promise different first days with many changes

Lakota’s 170 school buses flooded local roads starting a school day routine that will run through spring of 2019 and see the bus fleet drive 11,000 miles each day.

Lakota officials reported no significant transportation or delay problems in the morning starts.

“We are really excited to start the brand new school year today with all our kids,” said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller.

Lakota East High School kicked off the new school year Thursday with its more than 2,100 students attending an opening day rally.
Lakota East High School kicked off the new school year Thursday with its more than 2,100 students attending an opening day rally.

“We have had a lot of changes that have occurred from last school year to this school year,” said Miller as he waited shortly after dawn to greet students outside of Hopewell Junior School in West Chester Twp.

ExploreMORE: Paperwork error delays start of school year for some Lakota students

Lakota has attracted wide attention for its innovations in the past year and drew a short visit today from Ohio Schools Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, who toured schools with Miller for a few hours to witness some of the buildings’ new greeting programs.

Lakota officials had been touting a new style of introductions in welcoming back students, and Lakota East High School Principal Suzanna Davis delivered by holding a rare, all-school, pre-class rally in the school’s giant main concourse area.

Hopewell Junior School students entered their first day of school Thursday through a cheering tunnel of Lakota staffers.
Hopewell Junior School students entered their first day of school Thursday through a cheering tunnel of Lakota staffers.

Other schools, such as Hopewell Junior, saw excited students enter the new school year by walking through a human tunnel of cheering adults — including Miller — as they entered the building.

ExploreMORE: Tunnels of affirmation greeting students is a growing tradition at Lakota Schools

Students entering Lakota East High School in Liberty Twp. were greeted by upbeat dance music and walked through the school sports team’s inflatable tunnel.

“Today is based on learning about the East way, about getting to know each other and about getting to know your staff,” Davis told the crowd of students just minutes before joining some in a joyous dance.

Lakota East senior Landon Meador said he had never before seen a first day of school like it.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Meador over the loud crowd. “It takes off all the pressure of the first day and the stresses of the stereotypical first day.”