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Mr. Manning and a new first graders shaking hands in front of the Bulldog

Norfolk Academy’s Class of 2031 eagerly began its journey Thursday, marking the first day of school by taking part in historic traditions.

More than 70 first-graders and their families opened their morning in the Lower School Multipurpose Room, with introductions from Headmaster Dennis Manning and Michelle Alexander, Director of the Lower School.

Mr. Manning offered the children a history lesson. George Washington, first President of the United States, was born in 1732. That was four years after Norfolk Academy received its charter.

“We feel like this is a pretty special place,” Mr. Manning said. “And you are special people. So this is a great partnership.”

Each year carries a theme at Norfolk Academy, a word that provides a guide for educational emphasis. This is the Year of Belonging, and Mr. Manning promised the staff would make sure each child feels he or she belongs. Ms. Alexander started doing that right away, saying she and the teachers cannot wait to get to know everyone so they can share laughs and memories.

"We are going to be with you throughout the year," Ms. Alexander said. "Are you ready for the journey?"

“Yes,” the children shouted exuberantly.

“I love that enthusiasm,” Ms. Alexander responded.

Each child then took part in a time-honored tradition. One by one, they were called to the front of the room to shake hands with Mr. Manning and Ms. Alexander, and pet a stuffed bulldog, the school mascot.

Shaking hands is a way of saying hello at Norfolk Academy. Students exchange that greeting with teachers each day, everywhere around campus.

“It takes away their anxiety and makes them feel comfortable,” said Lakishia Biggs, Assistant Director of the Lower School.

After the handshakes, it was time for class.

Sahana is looking forward to swimming and music. She’s also eager to get to know new people.

“I’m really excited to meet new friends and teachers,” Sahana said.

Braylon could hardly sleep Monday night because he was so excited. He couldn’t wait to follow in the footsteps of his dad, who graduated Norfolk Academy in 1996. Braylon also has an older sister at the school.

Math and science are two subjects Braylon is looking forward to learning. Like Sahana, he can’t wait to make new friends.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” Braylon said.


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