OXFORD — Oxford Elementary School third-grade student Ivree Choate was nonplussed Tuesday as she waited for the school bus at the end of her driveway with her mother, Brittany Knight, and her “meme,” Jody Hall.

Wearing her new Shopkins backpack and a big smile, Choate said she was looking forward to gym — her favorite class.

Twenty minutes later, she arrived at the school, where hundreds of smiling students, many with their parents, arrived for their first day of school.

“What grade are you in?” screamed one young boy as he ran to another.

“I didn’t cry,” a parent said as she left after walking her child to school.

Veteran teacher Peg Dorf handed out high-fives to students as she and teacher Andrea Knippa greeted them at the main entrance and Assistant Principal Denise Inman, Principal Tiffany Karnes and other staff met those getting off the buses.

Several dozen Guy E. Rowe Elementary School students walked to the Main Street school as part of the Walking School Bus program. Students in grades one through six who live half a mile from school walk to classes year-round to improve health and save School Administrative District 17 money. They’re accompanied by trained volunteers.

Rebecca Powell, a substitute teacher and the coordinator for the program, led the way, joined by Police Chief Rob Federico, Detective Gary Hill, Cpl. Mitch Shaw and Fire Chief Dennis Yates.

Powell said the program has been an “enormous success.”

“The only time we don’t do it is if there’s thunder or lightning, or if it’s below a certain temperature,” she said.

Sixth-grade student Kody Fantozzi said he was excited to start the year, and that unlike some fellow students, he “actually likes going to school.”

David Marshall, another sixth-grader who was walking with his brother, second-grader Isaac, said he was “excited but bummed” to start the school year.

“I hate learning, but I get to see my friends,” Marshall said. “Seeing my friends is my favorite part of school.”

He did admit, however, he likes science.

“I like it when I can mix things together and watch them bubble and blow up,” he said with a grin.

As the walking students approached the entrance to the school, Powell asked, “How many of you are excited for the first day of school?”

Many cheered and one girl threw her fists into the air triumphantly, a smile on her face.

On Wednesday, students in grades eight, 10, 11 and 12 returns to classes.

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Devin Dumais, left, Madi Day, center, and Molly Bourget compete in a tug-of-war during ninth-grade orientation activities at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Tuesday. 
 

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