Local children say goodbye to summer and hello to another year of learning on Tuesday, Aug. 30. 

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Before the first bell rang, students at Rosemont Ridge Middle School catch up with their friends.While other kids may still lament the end of long summer days, Aria Maldonado was looking forward to one thing on her first day of third grade: homework.

On Tuesday, Aug. 30, schools across the West Linn-Wilsonville School District opened their classroom doors once again. As students hopped off buses and from the backseats of their parents' cars, staff greeted them with large smiles and "welcome backs" as they officially kicked off the 2022-23 academic year.

"I'm excited for homework … and learning more about math," said Aria, a third grader at Boeckman Creek Primary School. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Students at Boeckman Creek elementary school chat before their class starts.

Her brother Noah, a fourth grader, might not be as excited to spend his afternoons hunched over a worksheet or textbook — but he was looking forward to meeting his new teacher and checking out his classroom.

As Aria and Noah waited eagerly by the front door of the Boeckman Creek building, Principal Greg James stood at the edge of the crosswalk and greeted families walking onto campus. James joined the district this summer as the new lead administrator at the elementary school. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Families of Boeckman Creek elementary school were able to walk their students to their new classroom on Aug. 30.

James used several initiatives to become familiar with the school in the past few weeks. In early August, he set up his desk on the front stoop of the school and invited families to swing by to chat with him. He also asked students to make artwork for his office and received over 70 submissions.

"New school years are like budding flowers in the spring. Everything is new and the potential for fresh starts and continued growth is endless," James said in a letter to families.

Next door to the primary school, students from Wilsonville High School streamed into the main hallway. Bubbles of chatter floated around as friends caught up with one another. PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Students at Wilsonville High School kicked off their first day bright and early. The school campus is still under construction as the bond team works on new auditorium.

Freshman Lucy Becklin hung back, waiting for their friends to join them before entering the building where they will spend the next four years of their life.

"I'm nervous about the usual stuff, like being late … but I'm excited to make friends," Becklin said.

While Becklin sat by the front doors, fellow freshman Stevie Binns raced past, making a beeline for her homeroom. She said she was ready to take on the new school year and find her place within the Wildcat family.

"I'm excited about finding a group of friends and taking a class on photography," she said.

At Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn, seventh graders Asher Greerhec and McKenzie Larson found shade under one of the property's trees and talked about what this year could bring. The friends, who met in their drama class last year, are excited about expanding their social circle this year.

PMG PHOTO: MIA RYDER-MARKS - Rosemont Ridge Middle School seventh graders Asher Greerhec and McKenzie Larson said they are looking forward to meeting new friends this year.

There are a few changes throughout the school district this year. Lunch will no longer be free due to COVID-19 funding expiring, while most elementary and middle schools have new leadership and many campuses like Wilsonville High School continue to be under construction.

But one thing that will not change, according to Superintendent Kathy Ludwig, is the district's dedication to instilling a sense of belonging for students.

In a letter to the community, Ludwig told families that this year's theme is "belief and belonging."

"In West Linn-Wilsonville, we strive to create learning communities that instill belief in our students and create a sense of belonging for everyone," she wrote in the statement.

Ludwig cited research and anecdotal evidence showing that students who feel connected to their schools thrive outside the classroom and later on in life. Teachers and other staff will work toward ensuring all students cultivate a sense of community before the year ends.

For seventh grader Pranav Kavsik, the district-wide goal resonated with him as he hopes to find his feet within the school district.

Kavsik moved to West Linn two months ago from Bengaluru, India. He said although he's only been in the city for a short while, West Linn has felt like home already and is a "great place."

He plans to scope out clubs he could potentially join, among other ways to get connected with the student body.

"I'm excited about meeting friends, and this is a great school district so I'm excited about learning a lot," Kavsik said.

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