CLINTON — His classmates were different. His locker was new. His schedule was shuffled. And some of the teachers were unfamiliar.

Eighth-grader Evan Harden had a lot of adjustments to make Wednesday when classes for Clinton Middle School resumed. It comes with the territory of being with the first combined student body to learn at the brand new facility at 1350 13th Ave. North.

So admittedly, when he arrived Wednesday morning for a "second first day" of school — complete with different classmates and previously untapped campus amenities — Harden said there were some butterflies. They went away as the school day went on.

"I was kind of nervous at first because I didn't know where to go or what my new teachers would be like," Harden said. "But everything worked out well in the end. It was exciting to see different students, how they act, and everything about the new teachers."

Harden's principal, Dan Boyd, also was anxious. Running a new school presents unique challenges, as some students joined new bus routes and daily procedures like lunch were unfamiliar.

But overall, Boyd had positive reflections for the first day. The staff worked through some early hurdles and basic school functions became easier as the day wore on.

"We learn every time we go through and do something, and we've already started to adapt," Boyd said. "The amount of time we invested up front, being proactive in development of procedures, it's paid dividends today in regards to everything that's happened.

"We still have people here working to make sure it goes as smoothly as it can."

The Clinton School District celebrated its grand opening for the building on Nov. 9, and some students have been using facilities like the new gymnasium since October. However, Wednesday was the first day the balance of CMS students got to use the school for its main purpose — learning.

Boyd said preemptive efforts to acquaint the student body and staff to CMS paid off. Wednesday's hurdles were minimized, he said, thanks to collaboration ahead of the first day of school.

"The biggest thing we preach each and every day is teamwork," Boyd said. "It takes a lot of people to really put a school day together. What I feel the most proud of is the quality of people that we've been working with all dedicating themselves to one thing, and that's what's best for kids."

Boyd said students shared their excitement with him upon arrival. The first group dropped off by bus told him "they didn't get very much sleep, they were so excited."

Like Harden, eighth-grader Rachel Burns reflected fondly upon her first day. She added teachers were helpful in making some of the "big" adjustments seem minor. In turn, Burns focused on the excitement of the moment at a school she's been waiting to attend since she first set eyes on it in October.

"Today went really well," Burns said just before the first final bell rang dismissing students. "They had everything planned out really well. It's just so exciting to be here because it's a really nice building."

Both students have two trimesters to enjoy the newest district facility. For Harden, that evoked pride in being among the first to attend a united middle school. From now on, there's no more Lyons or Washington.

"It's an honor to be here," he said. "It's exciting to get to meet everybody before high school and get to know what they're like."

Boyd described his role in this transition like that of a coach. He said he was just one of many moving parts that made Wednesday work — from construction crews, to teachers, to students.

"I'm just proud that I was able to be part of the process," Boyd said.

Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at brendenwest@clintonherald.com

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