School bells rang all over Bartow County Wednesday morning, officially signaling the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
More than 13,000 elementary, middle and high school students traded their beach gear for backpacks and their sleep-til-noon mornings for early-riser alarm clocks as they ended their 10-week summer vacation.
“The first day of the 2016-17 school year for Bartow County Schools went extremely well,” Superintendent Dr. John Harper said. “The first day always holds the possibility for seeing where we need to make adjustments. However, the planning and preparedness of our staff shined today.”
First-day enrollment for the district was 13,031 students, with Cloverleaf Elementary (701), Cass Middle (896) and Cass High (1,486) having the highest enrollments for each level, but those numbers will likely increase over the next few days, according to Dye.
At Euharlee Elementary School, every conceivable parking spot was filled as most parents opted to help their kids shake the first-day jitters by walking them to class rather than dropping them off or putting them on the bus.
Teachers and staff members wandered the halls to welcome parents and students to a new year and to guide them to the places they needed to be.
Pamela Chance of Euharlee, who was escorting her daughter, Adler Grace, to her third-grade classroom, said the two of them were “excited” about returning to school.
“She’s ready to see her friends, and she loves the school and staff here so we’re excited,” she said.
Adler Grace, whose favorite parts of school are math and her friends, said she also is “excited.”
Taylorsville resident Amy West and her second-grader, Destiny, were both ready to start a new year.
“It’s great,” West said. “She’s really excited about it.”
Destiny, whose favorite subject is math, said going back to school is “great.”
Four-year-old Carter Hale might’ve been ready to start pre-K at the school, but his parents, Haley and Dylan Hale, weren’t.
“I’m sad he’s growing up,” his mom said.
“It’s kind of exciting,” she said. “It’s kind of stressful. Not loving the weather. But it’s OK. It seems fine. I think everybody’s ready.”
How did the adults feel about starting school the first week of August?
“I think it’s kind of good because they don’t get out of their routine,” Chance said. “I think it’s good that they don’t have distance in between their friends and then their schoolwork time, and they get back in early and get it done and over with.”
“I think summer could last a little bit longer, but school is great, too,” West said.”[Destiny has] always loved school.”
But Wehunt said she has “mixed feelings” about starting so early.
“I think most of the kids at this age are kind of ready for it,” she said. “They like the routine. They always seem so excited. It’s kind of an adjustment at first. But then again, it’s kind of sad, too, because we have to cut everything short. ... Like I said, I have mixed feelings about it. I personally would like to have maybe a couple more weeks at least. But if you look at the grand scheme of things, we do get extra time during the year, and that’s kind of nice. When it rolls around and we have a few days in the fall and winter, we’re kind of glad that we cut the summer short so we could have a few days in other seasons.”
She added summer was cut even shorter for teachers, who had to return July 25 for pre-planning.
“We had lots of planning time,” she said.
The 553-student school experienced a problem-free beginning to the new year, according to Principal Dr. Sharon Collum.
“We have had a wonderful first day of school,” she said. “But of course, with a super staff along with fabulous parents and students, I did not expect anything else.”
Collum is eagerly looking forward to being part of her students’ and teachers’ lives for another year.
“I have absolutely the best job in the world,” she said. “Every day, I watch teachers make a difference in the life of a child. I see children develop and learn new things. I have the opportunity to see that excitement. I treasure the trust parents have in us as they send their most precious resource to us each day. For all of those things, I am excited for each year. It’s the relationships we make and build that mean the most to me as a principal.”
One of the school’s main goals this year is to “continue to improve student attendance,” Collum said.
“The academic impact of missing instruction, whether absent or tardy, influences whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade,” she said. “We plan to engage staff, parents, students and our community in positive ways to promote attendance, which increases student achievement.”
Matt Gibson, who began his first year as principal of Woodland Middle, said the first day at the school “went smoothly as the staff focused on getting students familiar with their new surroundings.”
“The WMS staff is excited about the upcoming school year, and they are committed to providing the best learning environment possible for our students,” he said.
The school welcomed about 750 students back to class on the first day of the new year, but “we anticipate that enrollment will continue to climb over the first few weeks of school as student registration continues,” Gibson said.