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A Rainy-Day Start to School Year

Local students return to classes on Tuesday.

Rain poured from the sky, Tuesday morning, as local students headed back to class for the first day of the new school year. They grabbed umbrellas and raced from their buses, happily greeting old friends once inside the buildings.

AT POPLAR TREE Elementary, dad Vijay Malladi took pictures of his son Rohan, 8, about to begin third grade there. All smiles, Rohan said his favorite subjects are math and science.

"He just came back from India yesterday, after three months of intense training in tennis," said his father, of Chantilly's Waverly Crossing community. "I hope he doesn't have jet lag and stays awake in the classroom. He's looking forward to learning multiplication and division that they teach in third grade."

Sixth-grader Chris Dominguez, 11, said he'd rather be home sleeping, but was enjoying being a safety patrol for the second year. Third-grader Royal Wang, 8, came with his mom Wei and sister Lucy, 5, a kindergartner. He brought a supply of pencils, notebooks and erasers, and said he likes school because "I get to meet new friends."

Brendan Aronhime, 8, a fourth-grader, said it was great to be at school again. "You get to see your new teachers, make new friends and learn new things," he said. "I especially like spelling and science; I can do experiments and stuff, and I'm really, really, really good at spelling. And I'm going to take cello."

Sixth-graders Rosie Bhogal and Shivani Pandey, both 11, were also delighted to be returning. "I feel excited and happy because the summer holidays are really long, and I was looking forward to school starting and meeting my teachers and seeing the classes and students," said Rosie.

Her favorite subjects are English and math "because I like to write and express myself, and I like numbers, shapes and adding up." Shivani was eager to take her math and science classes "because they're really interesting."

At Greenbriar West Elementary, third-grader Reno Thiart, 8, was also happy to be back at school. His favorite subjects? Said Reno: "I like math, gym, science and recess."

Meanwhile, at Rocky Run Middle School, Principal Dan Parris smiled from beneath a huge, blue-and-white umbrella as he stood outside in the rain to greet incoming students. Then they all gathered in the cafeteria before heading to their classes.

Greenbriar East Elementary graduates Tanin Motamedi and Namratha Arabandi were among the bumper crop of new seventh-graders. "I'm excited about the new school, teachers and students," said Tanin. "But I'm nervous, too." Namratha felt the same way, since it was the first day of school, but she was looking forward to meeting new friends and singing in the chorus.

Sitting together at another cafeteria table was a group of seventh-grade boys, all hailing from Brookfield Elementary. Zack Kline called his new school "nerve-wracking; you could get lost in it." But he's happy about playing trumpet in the band. Jack Bustle liked Rocky Run because "it's a big school." He also looked forward to taking Home Ec because "you get to eat what you cook."

William Schulte liked Rocky Run because "we get lockers." And both he and Connor Rutledge could hardly wait for shop class because they'll get to build racecars.

At Centreville High, new Principal Mike Campbell was pleased as punch. "I could not have envisioned a smoother opening," he said. "I'm so proud of the teachers. I've been in 50 percent of the classrooms today, and it's like we never left. You can hear a pin drop; the kids are all in class."

Campbell stresses that his teachers really teach, the first day, and "grab the students' attention, rather than do all those boring [administrative] chores. The first semester for freshmen has a significant impact on their whole, high-school career. So we try to give kids their best chance at success early."

Freshman Danielle Wilbur was "kind of nervous," but said things were going well so far. She was looking forward to reuniting with friends and running track this winter. She and classmate Katie Sokol hail from Liberty Middle, and Katie said Centreville's teachers are "really nice, and it's really easy to find your way around. She, too, planned to run track, plus play softball.

Senior Brady Gleason, a linebacker, is in his third year on the varsity football team and says the Wildcats' chances are good: "We played Woodson last Thursday and beat them." He also praised the new principal. "So far, he seems pretty cool," said Brady. "I heard he looks out for everybody and lives in the neighborhood."

New freshmen Freddy Sidhom and Yazid Zouaimia had good things to say about the school, itself. "It's really big and I like it," said Freddy. "It's a new environment and you're on your own." He likes P.E. and plans to play basketball. "It's a really nice school," added Yazid. "There are a lot of familiar faces. I like P.E. and World History, and I'm playing soccer in the spring — center midfield."

FRESHMAN Winny Okoroafor called Centreville "great; it's big and diverse." She intends to play soccer and take Spanish. "I took Spanish I last year, and I want to continue so I can get into a good college," she said. Friend Amy Singh, also a freshman, said she'll have "more opportunities to meet new people" at Centreville. "I want to be in SGA," she said. "I heard everyone loves that class."

At Chantilly High, junior Ryan Traverso is taking AP English and History and honors classes, so he's expecting lots of hard work. But, he said, "I know where all my classes are, so it's easier than last year." Seniors Caroline Berlin and Leigh MacDonald wanted to "get this year over with" so they can move on to college. But they're excited about "senior status and everything you get to do."

Senior Qiting Huang was happy because it's a new school year, she AP Economics teacher, Mr. Clement, is "easygoing and fun" and soon she'll be applying to colleges. Classmate Yi Yeh looked forward to AP Chemistry and teacher Mrs. Koppel because she "worked with her last year for the Science Olympiad."

Sophomore Cody Lightfoot was pleased because his classes are easy and his older sister told him all his teachers are cool. Added Cody: "I'm looking forward to participating in wrestling and possibly lacrosse." And Christian Johnson was happy because it's his senior year. A linebacker on the varsity football team, he also runs track in the spring. As for the football team, he said, "We won our first game yesterday; we beat Annandale, 7-6."