By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — It was a special first day of school yesterday for freshman arriving at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. They were greeted by the applause of staff, along with balloons, music and high fives from the school’s Wildcat mascot.
Holding a “Welcome Freshmen” banner, upperclassmen who volunteered to greet them smiled and called out, “Welcome to Whittier!” as the 340 new students stepped off their school buses. More than 100 staff members stood in front of the school and inside the lobby, clapping and shaking students’ hands as they passed by.
“I didn’t expect to see that many teachers,” said Lucia Butruccio, 14, of Haverhill. “It made you feel like you fit in.”
Only freshmen reported to school at Whittier Tech yesterday. Upperclassmen were to begin classes today.
“They seemed happy to see us,” said Jason Rock, 15, of Byfield. “It was very different.”
Junior Kyle Flanagan, 17, of Bradford dressed in the school’s mascot costume, and got many students to smile and shake his paw.
“I wanted to make them more comfortable here in the Whittier environment,” Kyle said.
It worked, said Will True, 14, of Byfield. “It made me feel special, like they care about us,” he said.
The celebration of Whittier’s 40th started on Monday when Haverhill Bank hosted a luncheon for staff at the school. The bank has a branch office at Whittier where students who major in marketing and office technology are trained in banking and work as tellers.
Other events planned for the year include a dinner party in October to raise money for Whittier’s student scholarship fund. The Design & Visual and Graphics Departments are also producing an ad book which has to date raised $13,500 in scholarship money to be awarded to graduating seniors.
St. Joseph School of All Saints Parish will hold opening day today for kindergarten through grade eight. The first day of school at Sacred Hearts School in Bradford is set for Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Haverhill public schools welcomed 7,824 students yesterday, nearly 400 more than it ended the last school year with.
“The numbers are up and that’s a good thing,” said School Superintendent James Scully. “More and more families are choosing to come to the school system and stay in the school system.”
Haverhill school buses ran into few snags yesterday morning as many were 15 to 20 minutes late at arriving at school. Transportation officials said parents and bus drivers wanted to make sure children were getting on the right buses, resulting in small delays that added up.
Parents of children attending Golden Hill Elementary School were notified that the afternoon buses that take Golden Hill Avenue would be detoured as the road was temporarily closed for construction. Parents were told to pick up their children on Boardman Street or on Kenoza Street. Scully said some buses also encountered delays caused by road construction in different areas of the city.
Kindergarten classes in Haverhill begin today.