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Chris Albrecht kisses his daughter Holly goodbye Monday morning before leaving her classroom at Rock Crusher Elementary School in Crystal River. Monday was the first day of school for students in the Citrus County School District.

Jeffrey Thomas hovered wide-eyed around his parents’ legs on Monday as he waited for the first bell of the first day of fourth grade at Hernando Elementary School.

While he played with his new lunchbox and glanced at other families gathered nearby, Jami and Aaron Thomas shared their excitement at seeing their son — the youngest of three — start another year as a Hornet. It was tougher, they said, to see their eldest off to their first day of high school.

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Kayla Burns takes a selfie with her daughter Aubryn, 5, as she get to her kindergarten classroom Monday morning at Rock Crusher Elementary School as the first day of school begins in the Citrus County School District.

“You get used to it,” Aaron Thomas said. “When he goes to middle school, that’ll be the hardest.”

Jeffrey said he’s looking forward to making friends.

“And being nice to others and being good to teachers,” he added with a grin before school employees pushed the school doors open.

“Hi, everybody!” one of them yelled at the crowd. “Let it begin; parents are free!”

Jeffrey and roughly 15,000 other Citrus County School District students started their first day of school Monday, animating hallways and classrooms with their excitement and anticipation.

Citrus County Public School Enrollment

Data current as of Aug. 12, 2019.

School Name # Of Students
Central Ridge Elementary 798
Citrus Springs Elementary 741
Crystal River Primary 658
Floral City Elementary 363
Forest Ridge Elementary 727
Hernando Elementary 733
Homosassa Elementary 396
Inverness Primary 659
Lecanto Primary 816
Pleasant Grove Elementary 656
Rock Crusher Elementary 683
Citrus Springs Middle 792
Crystal River Middle 973
Inverness Middle 1,107
Lecanto Middle 834
Citrus High 1,494
Lecanto High 1,719
Crystal River High 1,232

There were also around 120 students having their first day at the Academy of Environmental Sciences; 116 at CREST; 130 at the Renaissance Center; and 19 at the PACE Center for Girls, according to district enrollment numbers as of Monday.

With the exception of two late buses at Inverness Middle School, parents and over 100 bus drivers got their children and passengers into classrooms without much hassle.

“Everything was running great,” district spokeswoman Lindsay Blair said after checking in at several schools.

Blair said there were a few instances of busses leaving late after school across the district because students were having trouble finding out which bus they were supposed to board.

Hernando Elementary School (HES) Principal Chris Bosse, accompanied by his staff and teachers, welcomed the school’s 733 students while parents gave emotional goodbyes.

“The opening went very smoothly,” said Bosse, who’s going into his fifth year at the helm of HES. “Students and parents came in with smiles on their faces ... and we think our procedures were well-defined, and we’re so excited to see our students back.”

Back To School Hernando Elementary School

Hernando Elementary School Principal Chris Bosse greets parents and students during their first day back to school Monday morning.

Some children got a little lost finding their teachers, but Bosse and his staff were there to give them a friendly escort.

“You’re always going to have that child who’s not going to know their way to a classroom,” Bosse said. “Just holding their hand and helping them get to class so that it’s OK for them — today’s all about them and being OK for them.”

Emilee Bata said her daughter Baylee was ready to brave the day herself.

“She didn’t even want me to walk her in,” the Inverness mom said. “She’s excited to walk her little brother in. He starts preschool tomorrow.”

While dropping off his son to start first grade, William Calise said it’ll be challenging getting back into the routine but he’s looking forward to the "break."

“Back to school is the parents’ vacation,” the Hernando man said.

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Students wait for the bell to ring signaling the start to their school day Monday morning at Rock Crusher Elementary School.

James Wallace, Bata’s brother-in-law who’s also from Inverness, said he was worn out after getting his son Jake’s school supplies, snappy clothes and fresh haircut.

“It’s a lot of running around to get up to this point,” he said.

Along with their traditional school materials, many students also brought along crayons, zip-close bags and boxes of tissue paper — donated goodies for their teachers, Bosse said.

Wallace said he hopes his boy is safe and has fun.

“You just wonder if he’s going to have a good day,” he said.

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Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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