Wednesday, August 15, 2001

School bells dusted off

Boone Co. is first to open for new year

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

[photo] Fred Bernier talks to students during lunch
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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        As thousands of students filled Boone County's classrooms Tuesday on the first day of school, two educators began contemplating the end of decades-long careers.

        “Today it was a little sad,” said Barbara Bernier, 57, a second-grade teacher at Florence Elementary School. “I thought, "This is my last first day.'”

        Mrs. Bernier and her husband, Fred, assistant principal at Ryle High School, plan to retire at the end of the school year. Together, they have 69 years of experience in education.

        “You still get nervous after 32 years,” she said. “You don't sleep much the night before the first day.”

[photo] Barbara Bernier talks to her class at Florence Elementary School
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        Said Mr. Bernier: “Regardless of their age, (students) are bright-eyed on opening day. I think any teacher worth their salt is a little excited by the first day.”

        Boone County is the first school district in the Tristate to open.

        The rapidly growing, 18-school system has 13,600 children enrolled this year, said Gerald Turner, Boone County pupil personnel director. Enrollment is up 4 percent from last year and has increased by 1,000 students in the past five years.

        Mr. Bernier started the day quoting Confucius in his morning address to students.

Here are opening days for other Northern Kentucky school districts:
    • Today: Campbell County, Covington, Dayton, Gallatin County, Pendleton County.
    • Thursday: Kenton County.
    • Friday: Walton-Verona.
    • Monday: Ludlow.
    • Tuesday: : Southgate.
    • Aug. 22: Bellevue, Newport.
    • Aug. 23: Beechwood, Erlanger-Elsmere.
    • Aug. 28: Fort Thomas (Highlands Middle School does not open until Sept. 4).
Here are opening days for selected districts in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties:     • Tuesday: Mason, Lebanon (grades 7-12).
    • Aug. 22: School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Crest Hills Year-Round School.
    • Aug. 23: Oak Hills, Lebanon (grades 1-6).
    • Aug. 24: Lebanon (kindergarten).
    • Aug. 27: Cincinnati Public, Princeton, Fairfield, Hamilton, Lakota, Forest Hills.
    • Aug. 28: Middletown, Milford, Sycamore, West Clermont.
    • Aug. 29: Northwest.
        “The quote was about the word "education' meaning to bring out knowledge that people already have, not about pouring things into them,” Mr. Bernier said. “I thought it was an appropriate way to start the year.”

        Mrs. Bernier wrote a personal letter to each of her 27 students, many of whom she taught the previous year. For the new students, she welcomed each in her letter and then told them about their fellow classmates.

        The Berniers have their share of stories about their first days.

        Mrs. Bernier said that one of the most memorable was when a child wore an abundance of perfume. Mrs. Bernier is allergic to some fragrances and spent the rest of the day with watery eyes.

        The little girl came home from that first day and told her mother, “Mrs. Bernier was so happy to see us that she cried all day.”

        Superintendent Brian Blavatt and his staff spent the day visiting every school in the district. He said it was the smoothest opening day he has witnessed. Mr. Blavatt said he was concerned not only by the district's expansion — three schools are under renovation - but by altered bus routes.

        “But it's been very, very smooth. It worries me, it's been so smooth,” he said.

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- School bells dusted off