DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Bookbags are packed and classrooms are filled starting Monday. But before that happened, one Central Illinois school got a head start with its open house cookout on Sunday.

Schlarman Academy in Danville hosted its annual cookout for the first time since the pandemic started. School leaders said it’s an icebreaker the students have been missing.

“The kids can all come back, see their friends, get to know their teachers, find their lockers,” said Barb Rew, Schlarman Principal.

Usually, an open house is all about getting schedules and finding classes; but at one Catholic school in Danville, it also includes grilling hot dogs and making up for lost time.

“It starts off the school year with a big event for everyone to get to know each other before the school actually starts,” said Anna Janosik, an eighth grader.

This year, Schlarman Academy brought back an old tradition that’s known for bringing everyone together. It’s been three years since the students, faculty, and parents gathered for the beginning of the school year celebration. And for the first time, it’s happening on the football field.

“Normally we do it out on the front lawn, but we decided to move it to the football field, kind of get into the spirit of football,” Rew said, “It’s just a great time just to get together and catch up because, you know, the end of the school year, everybody always scatters.”

Families from both Schlarman campuses came out with soccer balls and lawn chairs. The return of the cookout even gave some future students something to look forward to.

“I think Schlarman would be a good school for everybody and this is a really nice school and I really, really look forward to coming here,” said Elsa Rangel, a fourth grader.

“We are a family. Shaman Academy is a family,” Rew said. “The teachers are close-knit, and the families are close-knit, and the students are close-knit.”

Rew said the cookout is a tradition they hope to continue without a stop.