Despite it being just past dawn, Jackson Keese was already busy fighting off dew and early morning rain as it threatened to undo his work in decorating his truck Monday morning. With a yellow marker, Keese quickly retraced the words “DHS Senior” on the front windshield as he and several of his classmates prepared to return to school for the last time.

Schools throughout the Denison Independent School District opened their doors Monday for the start of the 2016-2017 school year. For some of the students who arrived at school Monday, it was the start of their final year as students, while it was just the beginning for others.

“We welcomed around 1,300 students back to school today, and it was really a very smooth, positive start of school for everyone, (with) a lot of excitement among teachers and students, and that’s always a good thing to see,” Denison High School Principal Cavin Boettger said. “Our counselors and staff were on hand for last-minute enrollments and registrations, and that went very smoothly as well.”

Boettger said he and his staff were looking forward to a very busy and successful year for all the school’s students.

“We never know the first week of school exactly what our numbers will be, but if the trend we’ve seen over the past several years continues, we should see some growth,” he added.

More than 40 Denison High School seniors started their day at Parkside Baptist for the annual senior parade to school. The students gathered together in the church parking lot to make the trek as a class.

“It’s all surprising,” DHS senior Darian Hunt said. “I was just in kindergarten yesterday, and now I am in my senior year.”

Hunt said she started feeling anxious about the upcoming school year and its importance when, as a junior, she started setting her schedule for this year. Her classes include three college-level courses, but she said she hasn’t decided which school she plans to attend after graduation.

For the upcoming school year, Hunt said she plans to take many photos throughout the year of events and friends as a way to remember her senior year.

“I feel that after we graduate, we are all going to go our separate ways,” she said. “I want a way to remember it.”

For Max Pasqua, the reality that this was his last school year started setting in early that morning.

“I just woke up with the chills and realized it was time to go to school for the last time,” he said, admitting he doesn’t think it has fully set in yet.

Pasqua said his final year will mostly be filled with core classes as he considers what to do next. He said he still was deciding what college he wanted to attend on his path to becoming a professional sports scout. He has had offers for a school in Arizona, but is also considering staying close to home and attending Grayson College.

Instead of taking photos, Pasqua said he plans to use Snapchat as a way to remember his last school year and keep in touch with friends.

“I’ve known most of these people all my life,” he said. “I hope they all go to college where I do so we can keep together.”

For others attending the parade, the event reminded them of their final year in high school. Amy Cox said her daughter, Kayla Bower, kept bringing up the fact it was her final year.

“She started telling us each thing was her last this or that,” Cox said, referring to extracurricular activities and clubs. “She is the one that has to keep reminding us.”

Despite not having a parade when she was in school, Cox said the event reminded her of her senior year.

“I can still remember the anticipation for graduation even on day one,” she said.

For others in the district, the day was a start of a new adventure in education. At Mays Elementary, 23 students in Susan Lovell’s first grade class learned their way around the school building and the basic rules for the coming year.

“First grade is the basic foundation for everything they do,” Lovell said. “All of their future education builds off of this.”

For her first day of lessons, Lovell read her students the book “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. The book tells the story of a raccoon who is nervous about going to school, but is comforted by his mother.

From there, the students went on a scavenger hunt as they followed the raccoon throughout the school. This gave students the chance to learn where various parts of the school, including the library, gymnasium and computer lab, could be found.

For Lovell, who has taught for over 30 years, the start of each year is like the first day all over again. She said the students in recent classes have even started to include the children of students she once taught.