A group of freshman students sat with their desks in a circle Monday, trying to get to know their fellow classmates at the Smith Academy for Excellence.
One by one, they shared their names, favorite sports and interesting tidbits about their lives.
As far as the first day of school goes, it was a pretty typical experience. Except for one difference – there wasnt a female student in sight.
The Smith Academy for Excellence, Fort Waynes only all-boys school, opened its doors to students for the first time on Monday.
Sixty-eight students in grades 6 through 9 poured into the charter school at the former St. John Lutheran School on West Washington Boulevard downtown.
Thomas Smith, former Wayne High School principal and founder of the school, said everything was going as smoothly as could be expected.
Its off to a great start, he said.
In the morning, he said, the students seemed reserved. Many were apprehensive both about being in an all-boys school and about being away from their friends.
But by the end of the day they were relaxed, joking with one another and talking in the hallways.
Jah Hill, a 14-year-old freshman, said his grandmother had signed him up for the school because girls had been a distraction for him in traditional public school.
I thought it would be like a punishment, but its not, he said, adding that he would eventually get used to the girls not being there.
Its a lot more quiet without them, he said.
In March, Grace College granted a seven-year charter to Smith and his two sons, who wanted to start an all-boys school on the citys southeast side.
The Smiths say the school – one of two new all-boys charter schools in the state – will emphasize college preparation, character education and service learning while giving students exposure to sports.
Smith said his new school is built around the premise that boys learn differently.
Students at the new school start their day at 8 a.m. and have extended day period that lasts until 3:30 p.m.
Students who havent finished their coursework during the day will use that time to complete their work, while others will use the time to work with mentors or participate in extracurricular clubs, Smith said.
If students dont finish their coursework by 3:30, they will need to stay until 5 p.m.
To make sure students are ready for the day, Smith said the school would have a morning meeting each day to address any issues that could flare up later.
The founders of the Smith Academy were originally aiming for 198 students, but they said they could open with fewer.
On Monday, Smith said he was confident more students would enroll in coming days.
Smith had hoped to build the school from the ground up at Paulding and Hessen Cassel roads.
But that fell through when the landowner changed plans.
He said the current location, within the Fort Wayne Community Schools boundaries, is temporary.
Eventually, he hopes to move to the southeast side of the city.
Smith said there were many traditional public schools doing good work in the area but that he felt as if his school could provide a unique and necessary service.
Boys learn differently, and they can be distracted when they have girls in the classroom, he said.
We saw a need and we decided to fill that need.