First day of 2019-20 school year goes smoothly for both systems

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By all accounts, the first day of 2019-20 school year for both systems in Bartow County was “fabulous,” “successful” and “virtually flawless.”

And if there were any problems after the school doors opened Wednesday, they were minor – kids not knowing which homeroom they were in, a phone system and internet outage at a couple of schools, teary-eyed parents having separation anxiety.

“I was very excited about what was going on in all of our schools,” Bartow Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page said. “The tremendous energy from students and staff was good to see and a great way to start the year.”

Cartersville Superintendent Dr. Marc Feuerbach also had a glowing report of his district’s launch of the new school year. 

“When walking through the schools [Wednesday], it felt more like the third month of school instead of the first day,” he said. “There was an overall comfortable and confident feeling among the staff and students. Our entire staff's commitment to making the transition to a new school year as flawless as possible shined [Wednesday].” 

Students and parents in Bartow County began the year with new starting and ending times for the school day – 8:05 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for elementary schools and 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. for middle and high schools – but there were no issues resulting from the change, Page said. 

“It was evident that our building leadership teams prepared very well for the day,” he said. “It was not an accident that it went so smoothly. We appreciate everyone making the adjustment, which will allow our teachers to collaborate and provide intentional interventions during office hours.”

The first day in the “Year of Firsts” for the newly rebranded Red Top Middle was “unbelievable,” according to Principal Dr. Wes Dickey, who started the day with an assembly in the gym to share with students all the changes that had been made to the school over the summer and to show them the Red Top flag, miner’s helmet, pickaxe and fall sports uniforms.    

“We also shared with them how this year will be the ‘Year of Firsts’ at RTMS,” he said. “We wanted the students to know what they would wear and how they could become a part of those ‘firsts’ at Red Top.”

Dickey said reactions from the students about the renovations were “very positive throughout.”

“It was exciting to hear the students cheer and applaud the changes to their new school as I announced them and described them individually,” he said.

Students also saw the Miner Family T-shirt and RT pin that each of them was to  receive Thursday so they could wear them at the first-ever Spirit Day Friday.

Page said the excitement throughout the school was “contagious.”

“And when we saw the first student walk down the hall wearing a Red Top Middle School T-shirt with pride and ownership, it made myself, as well as administrators, happy and eager to start another year of firsts,” he said.

The biggest problem the school system faced was AT&T issues that led to internet and phone services being “temporarily unavailable late in the day” at Woodland Middle and Euharlee Elementary, Page said.

“As a result, we sent an alternative phone number to families through School Messenger in case there were last-minute transportation concerns,” he said.

The traffic situation at Cass High/White Elementary and Hamilton Crossing Elementary due to the roundabouts being constructed near those entrances not being finished yet “went as well as could be expected, thanks to the Bartow County Road Department and [school] administrators,” Page said.

“They were very proactive from the beginning, providing our families with continuous information on traffic-flow patterns and video demonstrations,” he said. “Cass High School Principal Steve Revard even brought in the president of Southland Engineering to speak with student drivers.”

Traffic, particularly on Old Mill Road in front of Cartersville Primary and Elementary schools, also is “consistently a concern” for Feuerbach and other district officials, who are “the first to look at our areas of improvement,” he said.

“However, the traffic on Old Mill Road and our bus times were outstanding,” he said. “Our school administrators and car-duty monitors did a great job at keeping the flow of traffic moving on each school’s campus, and the addition of a second Cartersville police officer directing traffic outside CPS was extremely helpful.” 

First-year Principal Teri Marley said her opening day as head of Allatoona Elementary, where she once was the assistant principal, was a “homecoming of sorts” for her.

“I love it at Allatoona,” she said. “I remembered some of the older students, and they remembered me. We had a fabulous first day of school. It was so exciting to have the children back in the building.”

Marley said Wednesday was “one of the smoothest first days of school I can remember.”

“The staff was ready, and the students came in excited and ready to learn,” she said. “We also had a couple firefighters from Station 4 at the school to greet our boys and girls.”

There weren’t any problems, other than “a few parents with tears about leaving their little ones,” but they left happy after visiting the PTO’s Cheers and Tears table for “coffee, a muffin and some reassurance,” Marley added. 

Dickey said he was “definitely more prepared as a principal” to open the rebranded RTMS.

“My first opening day as a principal [at Woodland Middle] four years ago was filled with nervous anticipation,” he said. “[Wednesday] was excited anticipation. There were no nerves at all, just excitement and eagerness to share the great things that our Miners have here at Red Top.”

The staff encountered only typical first-day issues, like getting lost students to the right homeroom in the morning and on the right bus in the afternoon, Dickey said.  “At the end of the day, there ends up being some students who are unsure of their street address, which delays our getting them on the correct bus, but we had our afternoon bus load rolling at 3:53 p.m. so we call that a ‘win’ on Day One,” he said.

The total first-day enrollment, including pre-K, for Bartow County schools was 12,542, according to central office records.

Cass High had the largest high school enrollment at 1,440, followed by Woodland High at 1,283 and Adairsville High at 830.

The four middle school totals were Cass at 929, Adairsville at 801, Woodland at 703 and Red Top at 554.

First-day enrollment, including pre-K, for the 12 elementary schools ranged from 736 students at Adairsville to 362 students at Emerson.        

At Cartersville Middle, new Principal Matt Gibson experienced his first opening day of school since moving to the Bartow County system’s central office almost 2½ years ago.

“Interacting with students and parents on a more routine basis has felt like home,” he said. “Being in the building with the opportunity to influence our next generation and champion their growth and development is one of the major joys of the education profession.”

Gibson described CMS’s first day of the 2019-20 school year as “virtually flawless” and “a tremendous success.”

“Our students were attentive and engaged; our staff was laser-focused on beginning the school year on the right note; and there was a palpable excitement in the air,” he said. “Our incredible team of teachers and staff worked so diligently to prepare for the first day and the days to come, and it was truly showcased in every aspect of the school day. Our students were respectful and worked hard for six periods. We are confidently considering it a win.”

Because his staff’s duty assignments were “well-designed to support all student and family needs,” Gibson said the school “did not encounter any issues.”

“Class changes, lunch and transportation all flowed well,” he said. “I am extremely proud of our team – every single department was driven and honed in on the details of the day to ensure it was a smooth transition into the school year, and they more than exceeded.”

The total first-day enrollment for Cartersville was 4,498, with 1,430 students at the high school, 1,048 students at the middle school, 960 students at the elementary school, 932 students at the primary school and 128 students in pre-K, according to central office records.

The system also ran 27 buses and supplied 880 breakfasts and 2,568 lunches to students Wednesday.

Enrollment totals for both systems were preliminary figures and are likely to fluctuate over the next several days as new students continue to trickle in.