Lee County schools in Cape Coral reported a great start to the new school year Thursday.
District officials expected more than 86,000 students to head back into the classroom this year, a 2 percent hike over last year. About half of the students rode one of the district's more than 700 buses.
Cape Elementary School Principal Nicole Osterholm said staff made stickers for the students that indicated bus number and bus stop to help prevent confusion. The schools has 740 students enrolled.
"Our staff is very proactive," she said.
From the buses arriving, to the school day, to the buses departing, everything went smoothly.
"It was excellent," Osterholm said. "It was even better than I had planned out."
She noted that staff and students did not get rained out during dismissal.
"That even makes it better," Osterholm said.
Only taking up the reins as principal in December, it was her first first day as head of the school.
"I felt very prepared for today. I feel very prepared for the school year," she said.
For the first day, some classes participated in scavenger hunts, while others had faculty speakers.
"A lot of them did team building activities, getting to know each other in the classes," Osterholm said.
She explained that seeing the children after the long summer was a delight.
"They were so excited to come," she said. "It was great to see all of our kids today."
Principal Michael Galbreath reported a similar atmosphere at Trafalgar Middle School.
"Students were excited to be back. Everyone seemed to be in very good spirits," he said.
With 1,845 students enrolled, Galbreath called Thursday a fantastic start to the year.
"It was a great first day with transportation," he said. "We had some inclement weather, but we managed to make our way through that."
The lunches ran on time and students found their way to their correct class. Galbreath explained that teachers were present in the hallways to assist any students needing directions or with questions.
Kicking off his first year as principal, Galbreath served as assistant principal for the past 10 years.
"I'm really happy with the way it went," he said.
He pointed out the positive energy from the staff Thursday.
"I have an extremely supportive staff," Galbreath said.
"There were a lot of smiles and some high fives at the end of the day," he added.
Island Coast High School reported a smooth opening Thursday, despite a student enrollment of 1,620 and two new assistant principals this year.
"We did not have any hiccups," principal Kristin Bueno said.
"We had a fantastic day," she said. "We expected it to go that way."
This is Bueno's second year overseeing the school.
"Last year we had a smooth start, as well," she said.
To help transition back into the classroom, students took part in community learning. This involved cooperative group work, reviewing school polices and such, as teachers facilitated the exercises.
"We really wanted to build a sense of community right from the get go," Bueno said.
Students also received planners for the first time to track their school work.
"They'll be using that as a tool to support their organization and success with us this year," she said.
Faculty had the opportunity at the end of the day to provide feedback to the administration.
"There was not one suggestion," Bueno said, adding that everyone was pleased.
There are 97 traditional schools in the district, including 45 elementary schools, 17 middle schools, 13 high schools, 11 special education centers, four K-8 schools and five high-tech community schools.
The total count also includes one full-time virtual school and one early learning center.
Dr. Nancy Graham was sworn in as the new Lee County superintendent in June.