COLUMBIA — Morning sun dimly reflected off the golden helmet of a Spartan warrior next to a back entrance at Muriel Williams Battle High School. He shouldered his shield and adjusted his black athletic shoes in the stirrups of his dark brown horse, Rocky.
As it was throughout Columbia Public Schools, Tuesday was the first day of fall classes at Battle High. Along with the Spartan — the new school's mascot — administrators and staff waited for the arrival of 28 yellow buses. Army Sgt. Wyatt Siegrist, dressed as the Spartan, and Stephanie Barnette, dressed in a white toga with a blue and gold belt of ribbon, greeted students on horses as they stepped out of their parents' cars and streamed out of the buses.
Battle High School’s first senior class won’t graduate until spring 2015. Join us as the Missourian covers the entire school, from grand opening to graduation, and so many stories in between, as the next two years unfold. If you have a story idea about a student or professional at Battle High, email us at email@example.com.
Mike Korman, the owner of the two horses, arrived about 7:15 a.m. to get the horses desensitized to the painted lines. The blue lines of the handicap parking affects them, Korman said, because they're not used to it. He wanted his steeds nice and docile for the students.
"Good morning, beautiful people," Andrew McCarthy, an assistant principal dressed in a white seersucker suit with a multicolored bowtie, told the new arrivals. "Y'all got your schedules? Good to go?"
A few replied with a slight head nod. A couple shouted "yeah" in unison. One gave McCarthy the thumbs up. If one said no, McCarthy pointed to a side door.
Showing some Spartan pride, Shelly Herman, the extracurricular activities secretary who usually has pink nails, had her finger nails and toe nails painted blue — school colors are blue and gold — with a little Spartan decal on one finger. She waved as students passed.
Some looked bright and happy; some looked like they hadn't discovered coffee yet. Others had white ear buds dangling from their ears.
"Morning guys, morning ladies," Assistant Superintendent Jolene Yoakum told them. "Welcome to Battle. Hey guys, have a great first day."
With the bus engines rumbling and students talking in groups, the noise level built under the Battle High School sign. But it died down as the final few buses made their way down Spartan Drive. At 8:56 a.m., with the horses almost done being on stage and classes about to start, Superintendent Chris Belcher burst through the double doors in a yellow button-down.
"I heard rumors about a horse?"