ATWATER -- The elementary students from Cosmos may have been just a little timid when they got off the bus Tuesday morning in Atwater.
But when they saw the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District's mascot, they smiled and high-fived the falcon named Soar.
When the 65 Cosmos students walked into the gym, they were greeted with applause from the 226 Atwater students.
Within seconds, all 291 were sitting together and spontaneously chanting A-C-G-C.
Elementary Principal Kodi Goracke later marveled at "how powerful it is to have all the kids in one place."
Because of low enrollment and tight finances, the ACGC School Board agreed to close ACGC South Elementary in Cosmos. Starting this fall, all kindergarten through fourth-grade students be in Atwater. Now called ACGC North, the school will be ACGC Elementary this fall.
Students from both schools spent the day together Tuesday in class and in a first-ever joint field day, which had a Wild West rodeo theme.
The grades competed to see who could yell "yee-haw" the loudest. Goracke, Soar and Superintendent Sherri Broderius raced to see who could put on a bandana, cowboy hat and boots the fastest and cross a finish line. Soar won but Goracke said they "let" him.
The purpose of the day was to help the students from Cosmos become familiar with a different building -- including knowing where to get lunch and have recess -- and to help students from both schools get to know each other.
The teachers from both schools created activities to make the transition easier, said Goracke. The fourth graders had pen-pal relationships and all the students created a handmade book with pictures and individual pages for each student to tell something about themselves.
Tuesday was an indication of how the students will adapt to the change.
"When I looked in the gym, all the kids were celebrating together," said Broderius. "They were celebrating ACGC. In their eyes there's no differentiation."
Ryan Lee, a father of four who was watching one of his kids in the outdoor activities, said his kids haven't expressed concern. The process of merging with new students is one they all go through anyway in fifth grade when all ACGC students attend the middle/high school in Grove City.
Jody Carlson, a second-grade teacher in Cosmos, knows the move may be challenging but said teachers will focus on the shared goal to "inspire children to love to learn."
On Monday all the elementary teachers will spend the day together in Atwater and there are joint elementary choir concerts scheduled for next week.
The last day of classes at ACGC South is May 24.
On Saturday, current and past students from the Cosmos community are invited to an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. at ACGC South, 320 North Saturn, in Cosmos. A short program will begin at 2 p.m. with an ice-cream social to follow.
An open house for parents and elementary students will be held this fall at ACGC Elementary to kick off the new beginning for the district.