Principal Rebekah Bailey welcomes a new student on the first day of school.

Today marked the grand opening of Highlands Christian School, where excited elementary and preschool children skipped off to freshly painted classrooms to greet their new teachers, leaving proud parents behind to snap photos and wipe away tears.

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“We’ve prepared for this day for a long time,” said Jeff Giddens, president of the HCS board. “The last ten months feel like twenty years.”

The first order of business on day one was a dedication ceremony, with sixth grade students leading the pledge of allegiance and traditional prayer. Giddens challenged parents, who stayed on campus to participate in the assembly, to be standard-bearers for the new school and treat teachers with the highest respect.

“We need to reinforce this teaching at home and watch what we say and how we act, so that we live out these values in public and steward the school well,” he said.

Giddens noted that students may never know the sacrifices made to provide their education.

“We hope you realize the gift that it is,” Giddens told them.

Teachers will use the Carden curriculum developed in 1934 by Mae Carden and brought to Lake Highlands in 1966 by the late Dr. Betty Woodring, founder of Highlander School. Highlander closed in June after 57 years.

Though the first day was celebratory, Principal Rebekah Bailey admitted she’s dealt with a few glitches along the way. Plaid uniforms aren’t yet available, so students wore shorts and T-shirts, screen-printed with the school’s mascot — a lion, inspired by Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia. Textbooks were delayed, but veteran teachers, who average 20 years’ experience teaching Carden, said they could practically teach it in their sleep.

As the morning assembly ended and the flag was lowered, trucks arrived to deliver boxfuls of textbooks. Dads lined up to carry the cases inside.

“Every day, something new and exciting falls into place,” said Bailey. “I thought today might feel rushed, but every teacher is ready, and that’s encouraging. Inside every classroom, every child is fully cared for.”

Many of Highlands Christian’s families attended Highlander, and some of the school’s parents attended Highlander as children. A few, though, had never even heard of the school. They were just looking for a quality option for their young children and stumbled upon the startup.

“It’s exciting to get in on something from the ground floor,” said Glenn Goodrich, who enrolled his daughter in kindergarten with his wife, Sue. Their son is not yet two. “I see how difficult these things are to launch, so we appreciated how well this group has handled these challenges. So far, we’re just really impressed with the mission the leadership team is on and their competency. We’re not quite sure what to expect, but we’re excited to be part of something we think will be very special.”

Highlands Christian School features small class sizes and limited screen time. The school is located at 721 Easton.

Sixth graders lead the school in the pledge and the Carden prayer.

Students, teachers and parents began the day with a dedication ceremony.