First day of school is a mixture of nerves, new schedules

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Janice Query glanced nervously down the road from Faith Elementary School Monday morning, the first day of classes in Rowan County and most surrounding school systems.
As a transportation route supervisor for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Query’s business is bus schedules.
It’s 8:10 a.m., she said as she waited for the school’s four buses to arrive.
No, 8:09.
“Minutes count,” Query said.
And without much delay, yellow buses rolled into the lot, filled with children ó some looking happier than others ó to start a new school year.
Making sure buses run on time and go to the right places is a big part of the first day of school, said Jacqueline Maloney, prinicpal at Faith Elementary.
For the 450 or so students enrolled at Faith, the morning routine went smoothly, although parents’ cars were lined around the block waiting to drop off kids.
More parents drive their children to school the first couple weeks of school, Query said. Then, the traffic should die down a bit.
The first-day morning routine went smoothly throughout the county, said Judy Burris, director of transportation for Rowan-Salisbury schools.
“It has been a really, really good start,” Burris said.
She said her office has received only a few complaints from parents about changes in bus stops. The school system reduced the number of stops this year to combat soaring diesel prices.
Some schools are also sharing buses this year, which means changes in bell times.
Faith and Granite Quarry elementary schools are sharing. Together, the schools are using six buses, instead of the eight they used last year, Query said.
The school system is running 194 buses this year, Burris said, two fewer than last year. Fewer buses means less money for maintenance, Burris said.
Classes at Faith Elementary start at 8:30 a.m. this year ó 30 minutes later than last year ó to give bus drivers time to navigate from Granite Quarry.
Of course, students who strolled off the buses at Faith Elementary on Monday morning didn’t seem to care how they got there or when. They were just excited to be there.
“I’m happy,” said Tessa Ross, an 8-year-old fourth-grader.
So was 10-year-old Jacob Call, who is also starting the fourth grade.
He said he was pleased he made it through the third grade and is moving on. This year, he’s looking forward to long division and multiplication tables.
That kind of math is a few years away for Lizzie Priddy, who started kindergarten at Faith Monday. Priddy’s parents, Jacqueline and Dwayne Earnhardt, dropped off their daughter at school for her first day.
Jacqueline admitted she had mixed feelings about her oldest child heading off to school. Lizzie has a 3-year-old sister and a 1-year-old brother.
“I’m excited for her,” Jacqueline said.
But scared at the same time.
Lizzie was composed during those first few minutes of a whole new experience, which can be terrifying for some kids.
She calmly got out of her parents’ sedan and started toward the school entrance.
Her dad, Dwayne, didn’t seem quite as nonchalant about the experience.
His biggest fear for his daughter’s kindergarten career?
“Little boys,” Dwayne said from his car.
He watched as Lizzie walked away, guided by an older student to her new classroom.
Inside the building, first-grade teacher Cathy Lefko got her class of 19 students in order.
First-graders often have an easier go of it on the first day of school than the kindergarten students, Lefko said.
“By the time they get to first grade, they’re a little more used to school and everything,” she said.
Lefko has been teaching about 27 years. But even after all that time, she still gets anxious for the first day of school.
“I think we always do. We’re always nervous,” Lefko said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here. You always get that nervous feeling.”
Maloney, the principal at Faith, echoed that statement.
“I can’t sleep the night before,” she said. “I’m a wreck, making sure we’ve got everything lined up.”
By 9 a.m. or so, everything seemed as it should be in an elementary school. Students sat quietly at their miniature desks. Teachers patiently gave instructions. And a sign by the door of one classroom read, “Learning in progress.”
Maloney allowed herself to take a breath.
“I love this job,” she said.