Back in Session

Randolph students return for new school year

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Henry-Vance Tisha Gardner comes to school Wednesday to pick up her daughter, Olivia Gardner, and nephew, Luke Thompson, after their first day back to Third Ward Elementary for the new school year.

ELKINS — From learning classroom rules to getting their locker assignments, students in Randolph County Schools headed back to class Wednesday.

One of the students returning to Third Ward Elementary School in Elkins was Olivia Gardner, who began fourth grade. The Inter-Mountain has interviewed Olivia on her first day of school each year since kindergarten, and this year she was excited to begin switching classes. She will have teacher Stacie Friddle for homeroom, science, math and health classes, while she’ll have Linda Romine for English, social studies, spelling and writing.

“I like the teachers and the school,” Olivia said. “None of the teachers are mean here.”

Olivia walked to school with her parents, Cory and Tisha Gardner, as well as her cousin, third-grader Luke Thompson.

Since Wednesday was the first day of school as well as a three-hour early dismissal for students, Olivia said the schedule was a little off, especially as all the students got in lines for breakfast and one bus was running late.

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Davis & Elkins College students hold signs in support of Elkins children waiting at the bus stop at the corner of Elm and Earle streets for their first day of school Wednesday.

“This is not normally how long it takes,” she said before sitting down with her classmates for cereal and a sausage and pancake on a stick.

After a short gym class, the fourth-graders in her class headed to their homeroom, where they were reminded about what to do in case of emergencies, how to walk quietly in the hallways and what to bring to class in order to be prepared.

After working on a few math problems with Friddle, Olivia and the other students shared what they did over the summer. They talked about family vacations to water parks, amusement parks and beaches; some children talked about 4-H and soccer camps.

Olivia said she and her cousin Luke went to New York with their families, where they climbed Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain during a “miserable” four-hour hike. Olivia also said they visited the Johnson Ferry House in Titusville, New Jersey. She said the house belonged to her ancestor, Rutger Johnson, and it was where George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Night 1776.

At recess, after meeting with Romine and learning a little bit about continents, Olivia walked with Luke and her friends. She said the class she’s looking forward to most is science, while she also enjoys reading and spelling.

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Henry-Vance Kindergarten student Jackson Friddle likes attending Third Ward Elementary School, and says he already knows the class rules.

At lunch, the students were reminded about lunch rules and procedures. Wednesday’s menu was pizza, pears, corn and other vegetables.

“It’s really good,” Olivia said.

After lunch, the students returned briefly to their homeroom, got their belongings and then prepared to head home.

“One down, 179 to go,” Friddle said to her fourth-graders at the end of the day.


While Friddle’s focus was on her fourth-grade students Wednesday, she also was thinking about her son, Jackson, who was beginning kindergarten on the other end of the school.

She said that when she woke him up for school that morning, Jackson told her, “I think school should only be two days and we’re off for five.”

She said she laughed and said she wished that too, sometimes.

Jackson did say he likes school.

“It’s good,” he said.

While Jackson and his classmates were learning about class rules, such as raising their hand to ask a question, he said he knew the rules but they were “a secret.”

For another kindergarten student, school was a little intimidating on Wednesday.

Willow Tallman seemed to be a little nervous because she didn’t know everyone in her class. Her mother, Erin Tallman, also serves as a teacher at Third Ward, and Willow said she likes having her mom at the same school, but she didn’t get to see her much.

Tallman said Willow went to preschool last year and enjoyed it, so she hopes kindergarten will go well, too.

“She doesn’t like getting up early, but she loves school once she gets here,” Tallman said.


One of the fifth-graders who hopes to set a good example for younger students at Third Ward Elementary is Keira Fisher, while admitting that might be a little “tough.”

“It’s a big responsibility that I’m willing to have,” Keira said, adding she knows the younger students will look up to the older classes.

Keira said she is always a little nervous at the beginning of a new school year, especially until she really gets to know her new teachers.

“I know I’m going to learn a lot of new things,” she said. “I’m really hoping to get to learn a lot in science.”


While Wednesday was the first day for students in Randolph County, it also marked the beginning of the new school year for teachers, staff and principals. Hollie Pritt is the new principal at Third Ward Elementary School, after former Principal Debra Schmidlen became the new assistant superintendent of schools in Randolph County.

Pritt, who served as a teacher at Midland Elementary School in Elkins for 15 years, said she was excited about working with the staff, as well as meeting parents and students.

“I think I’m most excited about helping all the children achieve to their potential, supporting my staff and just trying to do what’s best for the kids,” she said.

Pritt said the student enrollment at Third Ward Elementary is just over 300 students.

Overall for Randolph County this year, the rough estimate as of Wednesday was just over 3,700 students, said Lynn Proudfoot, director of attendance.