NSA classes begin again

Published 9:09 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

Hundreds of students arrived to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s main campus on Pruden Boulevard by bus or family vehicles Monday morning to the fanfare of school spirit that marked the beginning of a new school year.

Parents took photos of their young NSA Saints posing with NSA mascot Bernie. They walked in carrying backpacks and lunchboxes of every color as the school band played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” There were hugs, handshakes and high fives all around, and plenty of younger students were happy to see their favorite teachers again.

“This is what makes our day,” Deborah Russell, NSA’s head of school, said as one little girl jumped up and down in excitement. “This is what makes it so much fun.”

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It was the start of the school year for 883 enrolled NSA students and 117 faculty members on both the Pruden Boulevard and Harbour View campuses, according to Karen Schompert, NSA’s director of communications and public relations. It was also the day for pre-kindergarten meet-and-greet sessions between faculty and families.

Hedwig and Frank Pichel said they were excited to have their children Emmett, 4, and Luke, 5, enrolled in their new school since the family moved to the area. Luke started kindergarten on Monday and Emmett starts pre-kindergarten on Tuesday. Hedwig said their 4-year-old was most excited for the year’s arts and crafts.

“He can’t wait to use the crayons that we bought,” she said as she held Emmett.

“And the paint,” Emmett added. “And the glue, two kinds!”

There were some slightly more difficult goodbyes in Colleen Perry’s kindergarten classroom. Cara Jones was holding her son Elijah, 5, tight. He was less than enthused about class at first but within five minutes, he was happy and playing, just like his mother expected.

“It’s just the initial goodbye that’s always difficult,” Jones said.

Returning teachers first arrived to their classrooms on Aug. 20, with new teachers reporting three days earlier, to make their rooms comfortable and safe spaces for learning. Perry also had help from parents who donated supplies, from colored pencils and crayons to Kleenex and hand sanitizer.

“Lots of people are very kind and generous to us,” Perry said.

She said a lot of work goes into making the classrooms both “exciting and inviting” for students, especially for 16 kindergartners. But she was ready to get back into her routines inside the lower school.

“It’s great to have summer, but it’s also great to get back to your routines and start a new school year,” she said.

Russell said it’s an exciting new year for NSA that marks a third year of growth in student enrollment. The Pruden Boulevard received improved security measures to go with added lighting, landscaping and other exterior improvements.

The Project Lead the Way engineering program is set to keep things interesting in the upper school. The middle school has an array of exploration classes, and lower school students will have added social and emotional learning to go with their academics under the leadership of Alexis Thomason, the new head of lower school.

“She’s going to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our lower school,” Russell said.

More than a few NSA faculty members also have their children enrolled at the school, like fifth-grade teacher Marty Elswick. Her daughter Taylor, 9, started third grade on Monday, and she has another daughter who’s a sophomore. Elswick herself graduated from the school in 1993 and her sister, Kim Aston, is the head of the upper school.

“It’s nice to all be in one location,” she said.