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DECATUR – The first day of school today will be a little less chaotic for French Academy students, thanks to an idea of Principal Julie Fane's and her staff.

“A group of teachers and I sat down and collaborated and said, 'We want to do something different,'” Fane said, in between greeting students with hugs. “Our school is on the cutting edge of things with the change to the STEM academy and we want to start the school year off right with our families.”

On Tuesday, the school hosted a welcome back to school bash with music, haircuts for the boys and styling for the girls, hot dogs, ice cream and a chance for kids and parents to meet the teachers and drop off supplies.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, and French put the focus squarely on that area last year.

Math is Bonnie Bell's favorite subject, and she said she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. She's in fourth grade this year, and both she and her mom, Latisha, said she was anxious to get back to school.

“This is where I can learn things,” Bonnie said.

Latisha Bell said she thought the event was a wonderful idea, giving students and parents a fun and relaxed time together to ease the transition back to class.

“It's a great chance to meet the parents and start things off on a positive note,” said kindergarten teacher Sara Kelly, who waited in the hallway with fellow teacher Tarika Mootrey to usher students in to see their classroom.

Both women said kids were excited and enthusiastic, but they expect a few tears today.

“Mostly from the parents,” Mootrey said.

The event was a cooperative effort with Heartland Community Church and Pastor Joe Bowman, along with several church members, brought the mobile hot dog cooker and ice cream to hand out. They're in the habit of stopping off in neighborhoods with the cooker and passing out hot dogs to anyone who wants one, along with chips, a bottle of water, and to quote Bowman, “a mouthful of Jesus.”

The church has adopted French and Stephen Decatur Middle School, Bowman said, and considers anything that can be done to smooth the path for students and families at those schools to be a way of helping to bless them.

“We have to go outside the (church) walls,” he said.

Reflections Academy of Beauty brought enough supplies to give all the girls a first-day makeover, as long as they didn't want to get too complicated.

“We only have two hours,” said stylist Ashley Blue, laughing.

Tamiko Coleman's son, Kamari, is going into kindergarten at French this year.

“Some of my cousins go to French, and they always get good grades,” Coleman said. “It seems like a good place.”

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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