Staff and students of Horizon Community Learning Center in Ahwatukee Foothills kicked off the 2011-12 school year on a cool and overcast Monday morning this week.

The 1,550 students flooded the school July 25 and packed the parking lot, waiting for their 8 or 8:15 a.m. start times.

For the seniors, it was their last first day before shipping off to college. For the kindergartners and some first-graders, it was the first-first day of their learning experience.

"I think I am going to miss the atmosphere here which is really unique," senior Kaivan Mayelzadeh said.

"There is a sense of community throughout the school," said Nicole Lemme, also a senior.

While the last year of high school is filled with events like the SATs and ACTs, the seniors said they feel they have been prepared and are not expecting to be overwhelmed by the workload in their final year.

"The school works to get you to a certain level and your coursework is matched to your ability," senior Danielle Farley said.

At least one class is changing a bit from last year. Sarah Cahill's mandatory technology class is shifting some of its focus away from the business aspect of computing to delving deeper into areas like computer programming.

"We get a lot of freedom as teachers and I saw that the kids were really interested in learning how to do things like programming, and web page design," Cahill said. "We have changes every year, but this year has been the biggest change so far since I have been here."

The ability to evolve is key to being successful and the staff and students and Horizon have proven they can do it.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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