By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — The pulsating pride that Pope John XXIII Regional High School students exhibit has returned to the corner of Andover Road and Sparta Avenue.
After another summer came and went, seniors, juniors and sophomores came back to Pope John for the first day of the 2019-2020 school year, the 64th school year for the Catholic academic institution.
“There was a lot of school spirit today,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School President Monsignor Kieran McHugh said. “It was wonderful to see all of the seniors come in this morning, followed by the juniors and sophomores. We could not be more pleased with the attitude of the kids. We hope that will continue for the rest of the school year.”
“It is so good to be back doing the important work of educating and molding young men and women entrusted to us,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School Principal Mr. Gene Emering said. “I look forward to an exciting and rewarding year with our Pope John faculty, staff, students, parents and guardians.”
This day had different meanings for every grade and every student.
For the senior students, it was the last first day of school for their high school careers — a day they couldn’t wait to have come but were also surprised that it had arrived at the same time.
“It’s definitely crazy,” Pope John senior Luke Chenault said. “Being a senior, driving to school, wearing the khaki paints and blue and gold tie. Everyone wants to be in this position when you come up through the ranks. To be the oldest in the school now is great. I’m looking forward to a great year.”
“It was fun and exciting, but it was weird, too,” Pope John senior Devin Brown said. “I still feel like I am a freshman. It is crazy to think I am a senior and one of the oldest students in the high school, but it’s exciting to see everyone and get this year started.”
For sophomores like Nick Moore, they started their first day of school along with the upperclassmen. Last year as freshmen, Moore and his classmates shared the first day of school with the eighth grade students. The freshmen and eighth grade students will start school this year on Sept. 3.
“It’s been pretty interesting,” Moore said. “You get to start school a littler earlier. It feels good to be one spot up on the totem pole.”
As for juniors Angela Appice and Eleni Bubalo, they are beginning their first year at Pope John after transferring from High Point Regional High School. Appice and Bubalo said they had some mixed feelings coming into their first day, but the tension started to ease for them as the day continued.
“It’s been pretty crazy, but I’m excited,” Appice said. “I like the school a lot. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having a great year.”
“It was a lot different than I expected,” Bubalo said. “Everyone was so kind in welcoming me to the school and helping me find my classes. It’s been a pretty good day.”
The students spent the first portion of the day doing activities such as having school pictures taken in the New Gymnasium, practicing the school’s evacuation drill and listening to the rules and regulations. In the last half of the day, they attended their eight classes that they will have for this year.
A new twist this year for the students is that they will be attending classes in an A/B block schedule format. Students will take four of their classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the other four classes on Tuesday and Thursday. All classes will be 80 minutes apiece.
“I’m looking forward to the block schedule,” Chenault said. “I believe it will get me ready for college because I will be used to taking longer classes.”
“It’s going to be different, but in a good way,” Moore said. “The teachers are going to keep us occupied and it will not feel like a long time. It’s going to be interesting.”
Throughout the day, students were happy to see all of their friends after having the last two months off for summer. Some were looking forward to what courses they were taking for this school year. Some were excited about participating in extra-curricular activities and on sports teams as well.
More importantly, they are eager to enjoy each of the 180 days they have with each other and making this year one filled with pride.
“I’m looking to just go with the flow,” Chenault said. “All of my friends from Pope John who are in college always say that if they could come back here, they would. I want to make the most of the time I have here.”
“I just want to stay positive, have fun with my friends, and make new friends,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a fun year.”