"I thought I was going to get lost, but I didn't," said freshman Amanda Link. Hannah Warner, also a freshman, said she ended up in gym class when she was supposed to be in health class.
They were among the 4,075 students who reported for the first day of classes in the Waynesboro Area School District Wednesday. That figure includes 296 kindergarten students who got their first look at the world of public education, according to district figures.
Back in his office, Superintendent Barry Dallara spoke about the challenges of the new school year, the biggest of which faces the other 500 school districts in Pennsylvania.
"We have now missed our first subsidy payment," Dallara said of the approximately $1.5 million the district should have received from the Pennsylvania Department of Education this month. The district is supposed to receive six payments a year, totaling about $10.5 million.
Gov. Ed Rendell and the General Assembly have yet to come to an agreement on public education funding for 2003-04, even though the deadline was July 1. Lawmakers will not reconvene until early September.
If the impasse is not broken by the end of September, Dallara said the district will "do a tax anticipation note, which is a loan that would be repaid as soon as the subsidy formula is agreed upon by the state leadership."
Another concern is meeting the federal mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, Dallara said. The legislation was passed two years ago, but the standards for adequate yearly progress were only available this year, he said.
Making sure the district has the resources to meet those standards, as well as state standards for test scores, are high on the district's list of priorities. That and making sure the students who need the most help are identified early.
"We want a system to give back to teachers, in a timely fashion, what they need to know to help that child learn," Dallara said.
Back outside the high school, the Johnsons, Link and Warner were joined by Kiah Rahn, another freshman classmate. They were asked which class was their favorite.
"The last one," Rahn answered.