Many of the youngest students in Montour School District started classes Aug. 27 in new surroundings.
Previously, elementary pupils attended school based on geography, and all three elementary buildings housed students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
But this year, Ingram Elementary was closed and the students were divided between the remaining two schools, with 574 pupils in kindergarten, first grade and second grade in Forest Grove in Robinson and 390 third- and fourth-graders in Burkett, also in Robinson.
The arrangement separated some siblings -- a stroke of either good luck or bad luck, depending on which big sister you asked on the playground at Burkett last week.
Third-graders Olivia Lyscik and Hannah George were disappointed their first-grade siblings were in Forest Grove.
"I'm sad because my sister doesn't ride the bus with me anymore," Olivia, 9, said.
The Burkett school day starts at 8:30 a.m. -- 15 minutes earlier than Forest Grove -- so children in the same family now may catch different buses at different times.
Hannah, 8, said she's happy to be with her friends, but she misses her younger brother.
Third-grader Sarah Eaton, on the other hand, was pleased she won't have to share a building with her little sister until they both are in middle school in four years.
"My sister goes to a different school now, and I'm glad," Sarah said.
Principal Dan DiDesiderio said about half of Burkett's students are Forest Grove and Ingram transfers and the total building enrollment has increased by about 25 pupils.
Class size in Burkett is 23 to 25 students, with eight classes per grade, he said, adding that about one-third of the Burkett teachers have come from other buildings.
Fourth-grade teachers are pleased with the merger, saying it's more beneficial to talk face to face with colleagues than to communicate via email and phone from three separate schools.
"We can collaborate so much easier now because we're all in the same building," said Beth Deley, who previously taught at Forest Grove.
Kristin Zyskowski taught for several years at Ingram, a small community school. "I do miss it, but I like being with my team," she said.
During the first few days of school, the teachers had students participate in icebreakers and work in pairs and groups to become acquainted with classmates.
"They have done well," Mrs. Deley said. "They are making new friends."
Third-grader Mikala Battles, 8, said she has played tag with new buddies during recess.
Fourth-grader Alexis Musko, 9, who attended Ingram last year, said, "At first I didn't want to come to Burkett, but now I'm starting to like it because I get to make new friends."
Third-grader Belle Ellis, 8, said she misses Ingram, "but I like it here a lot."
Former Ingram student Sophia Trevenen, 9, said she was familiar with Burkett from attending classes there during first grade two years ago. During the high school renovation project in 2010-11, many students temporarily attended class in different buildings.
Fourth-grader Abbey Fischer, 9, said she and her friends from Forest Grove are adjusting to Burkett. "It's amazing," Abbey said.
"I mean, it's a little different, but I'm getting used to it. There's definitely more. It's kind of a bigger building, a bigger playground. It has more stuff."
Kayla O'Malley, 9, said she already knew Abbey and some other classmates from her community soccer team and was glad for the chance to meet all of the girls and boys in her grade.
"We can get used to everybody so when we go to middle school, we can be friends with everybody in our classes," Kayla said.
Jason Burik, assistant to the superintendent, said grouping grades now will allow an easier transition later not only to middle school but also to a new elementary school planned for all students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Over the summer, the elementary PTAs merged, and the elementary schools swapped furnishings, equipment, technology and books as appropriate for their adjusted grade levels.
About 50 boxes of books for third- and fourth-graders were moved from Forest Grove to Burkett, and 65 boxes of picture books went from Burkett to Forest Grove, elementary librarian Ellen Jukes said.
Another 50 boxes of books were removed from Ingram and redistributed to the other two schools, she said.
She said items in the Ingram library that were purchased with part of a $100,000 donation earlier this year remain in the school on Vancouver Avenue.
District officials are considering opening the Ingram library to the public.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com.