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Schools in swing of new year
Visitation policy riles parents
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Twins Tanaysha and Jeremiah Colthrist pose for a picture on their first day of second grade Monday at Frank Long Elementary School while their mother, Lashearn Colthrist, snaps a picture. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

 Several Liberty County School System students and parents said they were excited Monday morning as they welcomed the start of a new academic year.
“It’s exciting for him. He’s ready to come back,” Alfreda Roberts said as she watched her son Josiah walk toward his first-grade classroom at Frank Long Elementary School.
Roberts said she looks forward to Josiah learning more and taking on new challenges.
“I told him the work is a little bit harder,” she said.
But the start of school brought some challenges of its own for parents and administrators as they coped with a new Liberty County Board of Education policy that prohibits parents from walking students in first grade and above to their classrooms.
Paraprofessional Terrie Rowan and Principal Judy Hellgren were among the staff members who patrolled the entrance to keep parents confined to the lobby area, and teachers walked groups of younger students to their classrooms in shifts.
Many parents said their goodbyes near the door, but some, like Roberts, were surprised by the news.
 “He asked me, ‘Mom, are you going to walk me to my class?’” Roberts said as she watched him walk out of sight from the school lobby. “He’ll be OK. He’s a big boy.”
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Conley said Tuesday that the biggest complaint she heard was about parents not being able to walk their children to class.
The rule stems from a May BoE policy change that requires visitors to request campus visitations more than 24 hours in advance and to have an administrative escort while on campus. It came on recommendation from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and some parents since have spoken out against the regulation.
“I don’t anticipate a change from the superintendent or the board on this issue, but I’m sure it will be discussed,” Conley said. “Safety is at the heart of this decision, and safety is one thing that everyone agrees on.”
Otherwise, Conley said, the day was “absolutely wonderful.”
“I was amazed by cooperation of parents and students in the parking lots at pre-K,” Conley said. “Even with the temporary parking conditions and the final phases of parking lot construction, everyone was cordial and complied with the rules.”
Another mother, Angela Wynn, also said she was excited for her daughter, first-grader Nyeia Wynn, to return to school.
When Nyeia walked into the lobby, she radiated energy as she hugged a friend.
“Oh my gosh, she was happy. ..., ” Wynn said. “She’s a big girl now — first grade.”
When asked her opinion on the policy that prohibited her from walking Nyeia to class, Wynn shook her head.
“I’m all up for openness, to be honest with you. We didn’t get a chance to actually come [to open house], but when we came on Friday, we were turned around because of the weather,” Wynn said. “But now, my daughter’s here and she’s in a class, but I don’t know where it is. But I’m sure it will work out; it’ll be all right. She’s a big girl.”
Outside the school, 2nd Brigade Combat Team 1st Sgt. Kendra St. Helen snapped a self-portrait with daughter Kenchael Thomas to put into Kenchael’s photo album and share with her family back in Raceland, La.
Leading up to the school year, St. Helen and Kenchael reviewed the alphabet, practiced addition and subtraction and read. Returning for first grade this year was easier than beginning kindergarten, St. Helen said.
“It’s time to go back. Now I need vacation from the vacation,” she added.

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