KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The first day of school crowd was smaller than usual at Dobyns-Bennett this year, with about 650 of the 2,300 total students on campus, district officials reported.

This year, Kingsport City Schools is testing out a new way of welcoming freshmen and other first-year students to the building; rather than asking them to find their classes among the hustle and bustle of the entire student body, new students had the building to themselves Monday.

“We really wanted to do that this year to acclimate students a little bit better,” Kingsport Assistant Superintendent Andy True told News Channel 11. “For them to feel a little more comfortable coming in, knowing it was just new students here today instead of being among the rest of the 2,200, 2300 students.”

Students met with their classes, took tours of the building, tested out the cafeteria and participated in getting-to-know-you games.

Students in the district’s elementary and middle schools returned to class Monday as well.

“Across the district, as students have come back today, it’s been a lot of excitement,” True said. “Going to different buildings and seeing the families and seeing the students and the staff all come together [is] just an exciting time.”

Students in Sullivan County Schools also returned to the classroom Monday, and Director of Schools Charles Carter marked his first day of classes in the role.

“It’s exciting for our students,” said Carter.

Despite the anxiety that can come with transitions to a different school and a new school year, Carter said staff are committed to creating a positive experience for students.

“Every school that I go into, teachers are smiling, they’re ready for our students to come back, and we’re excited about the opportunities this year,” said Carter.