By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — The school spirit has come back to Pope John XXIII Regional High School.
On Monday, seniors, juniors and sophomores returned to Pope John for the first day of the 2017-2018 school year, the 62nd school year for the Catholic academic institution on the corner of Andover Road and Sparta Avenue.
“The kids were awesome today,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School President and Principal Father McHugh said. “We could not be more pleased with the attitude of the kids. We’re very happy with that and we hope that will continue for the days to come.”
The students spent the first portion of the day doing things such as having school pictures taken in the Old Gymnasium, practicing the school’s evacuation drill and listening to the rules and regulations. In the last half of the day, they attended all nine class periods that they will have for this year.
But, this day had different meanings for every grade and every student.
For the senior students, it marked the last first day of school for their high school career — a day they couldn’t wait to have come but were also shocked that it had arrived at the same time.
“It was bitter-sweet,” Pope John senior Ryan Greenhagen said. “This was our last time we get to do this as a class. We’ve done it for the last four years. Everything is going to be different after this. Everything we’ll do this year will be exciting in some ways and sad in some ways.”
However, there were some students who were experiencing some new situations at PJ.
For sophomores like Eddie Ventresca, they started their first day of school along with the upperclassmen. Last year as freshmen, Ventresca and his classmates shared the first day of school with the eighth grade students.
“It was a little weird seeing so many people,” Ventresca said. “Last year, there were less people in the hallways, so it was easier to get to your classrooms. But, it's been good overall."
As for junior Kenna Squier, she transferred to Pope John from Sussex County Technical School after spending her first two years at the county-wide technical public school in Sparta. Squier said she had some mixed emotions coming into her first day, but the tension started to ease for her as the day continued.
“It was definitely a different experience than I had at Sussex Tech,” Squier said. “At the beginning of the day, I was pretty nervous, but once I started to get the hang of things, everything calmed down.”
Throughout the day, though, students were thrilled to reunite with all of their friends after having the last two months off for summer. They were also happy to get back into the groove of being at PJ for the next 180 school days.
“I’m excited to be back and see all my friends again, get back into the routine of school, homework, things like that,” Pope John junior Emma Myer said. “It’s nice.”
Some were happy to see what courses they were taking for this school year. Some were looking forward to participating in extra-curricular activities and on sports teams as well.
All in all, though, Monday was the start to what everyone hopes will be a school year to remember.
“We are very pleased with the attitude and the disposition of the students,” Father McHugh said. “This was one of the smoothest openings in a long time. Everybody was cooperative. We want to keep it going and have a great, wonderful year.”