Education

Houston, Bibb students get smooth school start

WARNER ROBINS -- School began across Bibb and Houston counties Monday without much of a fuss.

In Houston, Lake Joy Primary had its first day of the year, and there were no major issues with drop-off or the young students adjusting.

“This morning went super smooth,” said April Greene, in her seventh year as the school’s principal. “Today was a great start.”

Beth McLaughlin, the district’s director of community and school affairs, visited eight of the county’s 38 schools and said the story was the same across the county. Other than first-year students learning procedures, the halls didn’t look much different than they will later in the year.

“You’d never know it was the first day of school,” she said. “It was quiet; students were in class.”

One of the biggest concerns for parents of first-time students can be leaving their child with a new person. To help that transition, the county held “meet and greet” events at each school last Thursday.

“So they could all come in and get familiar with their teacher and their parents could get familiar with their teacher,” Greene said.

The gatherings are key to a smooth opening for schools around the county, Superintendent Mark Scott said. “I think that’s huge,” he said.

That effort seemed to pay off Monday.

Tara Hill, one of the school’s kindergarten teachers, said she only really had one student who got upset when his parents dropped him off. By lunch time, he was mixing in with the group, and the class had no signs of tears after that.

“We’re just kind of taking baby steps, giving step-by-step instructions, kind of guiding them around,” Hill said.

Another part of the first-day process for the school’s kindergarten and pre-K students was a tour of the building. Each class went around to see the different offices and classes, and the students got to meet the staffers that worked in each location.

That way, if they need to find a counselor or principal, they won’t be as likely to be lost or confused. “I think it comforts them and gives them a sense of security as they meet us all and know that we’re here to help,” Greene said.

Even though public school starts at the pre-K level, not every student starts attending then. Because of that, some kindergartners have a year under their belt while others are learning how to line up for lunch and sit in a desk for the first time.

“In kindergarten, there’s a good mix of students who have been in school before and students that haven’t been in school before,” said teacher Jodi Short.

Because Lake Joy Primary only has students through the second grade, it won’t be long before those first-timers are the school’s “seniors,” Greene said.

As a result, they’ll get a chance to get involved and even be leaders within just a couple years, instead of having to wait until the third or fourth grade. Lake Joy Primary has groups for music, dance, gardening and even jump roping.

“So there’s a lot of opportunities for leadership,” said Greene. “As they get a little bit further along, they’re in clubs and our activities. ... That’s different than most other places.”

In Bibb County, Superintendent Curtis Jones made the rounds to several schools.

The first day of school went smoothly, according to Stephanie Hartley, Bibb’s communications coordinator.

Among the ones Jones visited were Southfield Elementary, Ballard-Hudson Middle, Morgan Elementary (located in the Rice Elementary building), Barden Elementary and the Burghard Opportunity Center.

“The first day of school went fairly well,” Jones said later. “I saw teachers engaged. I saw students that were happy to be there. And I saw what appeared to be clean and safe facilities.

“We continue to have some challenges around first day transportation issues, and we will continue to work on those and make them better for our parents,” he said.

Jones plans to visit all schools by the end of the month “just to see how things are going,” Hartley said.

She added that no major issues were reported.

Staff writer David Schick contributed to this report. To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter @MTJTimm.

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