Priscilla and Lamar Myers came all the way from Des Moines, Iowa, for the first day of public school in Teton County.

They make it out to Jackson for their grandchildren’s start of the school year as often as they can. This year Grainger Harris, 11, started sixth grade at Jackson Hole Middle School. His sister Kepley started third grade at Colter Elementary School.

The grandparents say it’s nice to meet the Teton County School District No. 1 teachers and see the students off on their next adventure.

“It’s very special,” Priscilla Myers said.

She and her husband see their grandchildren only a few times a year. They don’t arrive empty-handed: Along with new clothes they bring food.

“We always have a cooler full of Iowa meat,” Myers said.

Chops, sausage and some chocolate chip or ginger cookies thrown in for good measure — now that’s one heck of a way to start the school year.

For students like Grainger middle school is a time of transition and change.

“The biggest obstacle is learning how to open up those lockers,” said Kristine Harris, his mother. “The rest will fall into place. There’s a lot of nervous energy and a lot of excitement.”

An open house the week before school starts helped students adjust to all the changes middle school can present. In addition to lockers there is more homework and studying at home a rotating class schedule, a different building and new faces. Middle school is also the first time that students get their own iPad to take home.

School board Trustee Betsy Carlin and her wife Becky Watson’s daughter Biz, 11, also started middle school on Tuesday. Carlin said that middle school orientation helped Biz feel more comfortable and that opening her locker was the “main topic of worry.”

“There is definitely some more responsibility,” Carlin said.

On Monday, Biz said she was ready.

“I’m more excited than I am nervous,” she said. “I love summer because it’s a break from school, and everyone likes that, but I’m also excited to go back to school because I love learning. And it’s a different school, which is pretty fun.”

Carlin said a Girls Actively Participating camp before the start of school helped her daughter meet incoming middle school girls from other elementary schools.

Fellow school board Trustee Keith Gingery’s daughter Alexandra, 11, also attended the camp and is an incoming sixth-grader. When he went with Alexandra to orientation she decorated her locker.

“One of the pictures had me in it,” Gingery said. “At that age, to still be recognized, that’s big.”

He said middle school is the time when kids start picking extracurriculars more selectively.

“You can’t do everything,” Gingery said. “She’s concentrating on ballet and modern dance, and other kids are picking soccer.”

Across the valley, preparations were underway during the weeks leading up to school. Back-to-school traditions included backpack shopping, a new haircut and enforcing earlier bedtimes.

“Grainger has been carrying his backpack since kindergarten,” Harris said. “So we promised him last year that if he just carried his same backpack through fifth grade that this summer, he could pick himself out a brand-new backpack.”

Haley Deming said her daughter Riley, 8 years old and going into third grade, got a back-to-school hairdo with a little bit of purple thrown in for good measure.

“It’s a little fresh, a little change,” Deming said. “She’s ready for the new season.”

In addition to a layer of purple underneath her blond locks, Riley got ready for school by reading 10 minutes a night in English and Spanish, a goal for the students in the dual immersion program.

Parents said there wasn’t just one emotion to describe how summer coming to an end feels. The overall sentiment was that while they love spending time with their kids, structure is nice, too. Many said they have traditions centered around spending quality time together during the summer when they have more time as a family.

“I’m not ready to let go of the freedoms of summer, but I’m definitely ready for a routine,” Harris said. “I always go to work Monday through Friday, but it’s just a lot easier when it’s systematic.”

Other moms and dads agreed.

“Time flies by,” Gingery said. “But she doesn’t have anything to be nervous about. She’s ready, and she’s going to have a good time.”

Fall means a new schedule for many families.

“Summertime has been nice, especially because we get to sleep in an hour later each day,” Deming said. “As bittersweet as it is — this summer flew by — it is nice to get back into a routine.”

Carlin also described the start of school as bittersweet.

“I know she’s ready,” she said. “We’re really excited for her entering middle school and the next phase. But at the same time, I’m recognizing that it’s a passage of time.”

Contact Kylie Mohr at 732-7079, schools@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGschools.

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