With buses back on the roads, students sporting their uniforms and parents experiencing a range of emotions, Liberty County schools were full of life Thursday morning as the 2011-12 academic year began.
“We had approximately 10,400 smiling faces Thursday,” Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said, adding that county enrollment numbers are expected to grow over the next few days.
Waiting outside of Joseph Martin Elementary for his wife and child to arrive, Staff Sgt. Bennie Crawford said seeing his son, Roderrick, off to kindergarten was an emotional experience.
“I’ve been deployed a lot. I’ve been in and out of their lives and missed them growing,” he said. “This means a lot to me.”
Roderrick is eager to start school, and “he thinks he’s a big boy now,” Crawford added.
When asked what he would do in class, Roderrick said he would “not go to sleep” and would learn “some letters, my name.”
Administrators would like to remind drivers to be more attentive when driving in the mornings and afternoons, as Liberty County buses run from 6:30-8:20 a.m. and from 2:20-5 p.m. daily.
This spring, Liberty County took part in a single-day study conducted throughout 28 states and counted 148 illegal passes, transportation director Tony Norce said.
“That’s huge, considering I only run 135 routes, so we’re averaging one pass per route,” Norce said. “So there’s the potential on every route, every day for a child to be hurt by a motorist.”
Drivers also should be patient when in school zones, Chief Deputy Keith Moran said. Though the first day of school clogged Highway 84 in Flemington, he believes traffic will loosen once the crossing guards have adjusted to the routine.
“It’s the first week of school, so it will be a little bit of a learning curve,” Moran said. “We’ll be very much aware of how bad it is and looking for solutions to speed things up.”
Moran also encouraged parents to consider carpooling, which would reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
At Snelson-Golden Middle School, Alberta Perry asked her seventh-grade daughter, Ayiana, to pose for pictures in front of the school and in front of a board emblazoned with the word “Welcome!”
“You should be used to it. I do it every year,” she told Ayiana. Perry was among many parents trying to capture their children’s attire and mood on the first day of school.
“Every first day that I’m here for, I’m there snap-snap-snapping,” Perry said while pantomiming taking pictures. “I want to look back and see where she’s been.”
Bradwell Institute Principal Scott Carrier, who moved to the school last September, compared his experience as an elementary school principal with returning to high school.
“Once we get to the high school level, we’re very focused on those graduation requirements,” he said during open house on Wednesday. With younger children, the emphasis is more on making them comfortable and eliminating jitters — but since they’ve been in school for so long, high-schoolers get down to business more quickly.
Each of the district’s 14 schools hosted an open house on Wednesday to allow students and parents to meet their teachers, learn about extracurricular activities and tour the facilities.
Scherer visited schools to see how each open house was going.
“We’ve had a wonderful turnout,” she said. “We feel like we’re ready to go.”
At Lyman Hall Elementary’s open house, kindergarten teacher Michelle Parker greeted her 11 students with lollipops and spoke with parents about classroom procedures.
“I can say I’ve had more parents crying than kids,” she said. Parents visiting her classroom had mixed emotions about sending their children to school.
Parker worked to ease parent concerns, explaining that she likely would spend about a week explaining rules and procedures and doing icebreaker activities. She also reads books about the first day of school to her class, she said.
Once students are adjusted, Parker’s expectations are high.
“We teach math, reading, phonics,” she said. “We don’t take naps.”