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At Illing It's Seventh-Graders First

Seventh-graders will have Illing Middle School to themselves when classes begin on Thursday, Aug.27.

Eighth-graders will not start classes until Friday, said Principal Beth Hayes, adding that the change was made to provide a less stressful transition for the younger students.

"This truly is the first time our seventh-graders will ever have been in a building this large," Hayes said. Illing has about 400 students in each grade level.

For years, Manchester High School has opened with a Freshman First Day program for grade 9 students only, with upperclassmen starting school the next day. Hayes, who is a former assistant principal at MHS, said the Illing program will be modeled after the high school's.

In addition to team building activities and a tour of the building, seventh-graders will enjoy an ice cream social and a performance by the Hip Pickles percussion group that is part of a campaign designed to build a positive school climate.

Superintendent Matt Geary said he was happy to support Hayes' proposal. 

"All students need to be comfortable in their schools and this is a smart way to ease the seventh-graders' transition," Geary said.

Roy Roberts, an assistant principal at MHS who oversees grade 9 students, said that Freshman First Day includes an opportunity for incoming students to meet up with upperclassmen who serve as mentors throughout the year.

"Transitions can be challenging and stressful, and we have found that our freshmen really appreciate having the building to themselves for day," Roberts said, adding that a smooth start helps students do better with their grades, attendance and even behavior. "I'm sure that our seventh graders will benefit just as our ninth-graders do."

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