Michael Price began his opening day as principal of Lexington's Breckinridge Elementary School just after 7 a.m. Wednesday by greeting the first students arriving for the reopening of classes.
"Hi, and welcome back," he exclaimed. "I'm Principal Price, and it's great to see you."
For the next two hours, Price was a blur of motion around the school, exchanging fist bumps and high fives with students, directing kids to their classrooms, comforting youngsters (and a few parents) struggling with separation anxiety, and giving pep talks to teachers.
Price, 37, was an assistant principal at Tates Creek Middle School before recently taking over at Breckinridge. He says he's always excited on the first day of school.
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"It's like Christmas for me," he said, watching Breckinridge come to life again after the summer break. "I can't think of another profession where you get a new start every year and a new chance to make a difference in people's lives."
About 40,000 students were on the move all across Lexington on Wednesday as the Fayette County public schools kicked of the 2012-13 school year. The scramble back to classes produced no significant problems, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.
She said there were a few hiccups at the end of the school day, such as two students being unaccounted for briefly because they walked to Kirklevington Park instead of going home after getting off a school bus. But overall "everything went very smoothly," she said.
Deffendall said it appeared student enrollment was up again this year, but it will be a few days before the numbers are final.
The Lexington police department, which increased traffic enforcement for the opening day of school, said traffic moved a little slower than normal Wednesday, but without major difficulties.
"No citations related to school traffic have been issued," Lt. J.J. Lombardi said. "We can attribute that to stepped-up presence and enforcement efforts in school zones."
At Breckinridge, Price spent a good part of his morning apologizing to people for problems in getting around the school. Students and parents had to follow circuitous routes to avoid a fenced-off area of bare ground, construction equipment and stacked steel girders next to the school.
Breckinridge is one of several Fayette schools under renovation. It's getting a new administration area, some new classrooms and major improvements to its cafeteria and gym.
The work won't be complete until the fall of 2013, when Breckinridge will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
With construction continuing, about two-thirds of Breckinridge's 550 students will be learning in portable classrooms this year.
"I know it's inconvenient, but we'll make it work for us," Price said. "And it will be worth it in the end, because we'll have a totally new school."
Meanwhile, Whitney Moffett and other Breckinridge teachers were getting their students settled. Moffett, who teaches first grade, outlined classroom etiquette — "raise your hand before speaking" — and praised kids when they quickly caught on. "You guys are awesome," she said.
Price smiled as he talked of hard work ahead.
"You know, it's amazing," he said. "We have the Class of 2024 coming in this morning. Some of these kids actually will be graduating in 2024. What is the world going to be like then, and how are we going to help them prepare for it? It's going to be a challenge."