New year of school gets thumbs up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SPENCER — Unlike some of his classmates, Mason Smith didn’t cry when he arrived at North Rowan Elementary for his first day of school Thursday.
Instead, his wide eyes lit up as he explored the building.
The 5-year-old’s transition to kindergarten was bittersweet for his mother, Misty Smith.
“I’m a little stressed and a little anxious, but I’m mostly happy because he’s always wanted to go to kindergarten,” she said.
Despite mom’s fears, Mason didn’t seem a bit nervous — he was ready to make new friends.
“I feel like I’m at home,” he said.
Smith said leaving her firstborn was difficult, but she imagines she’ll be even more emotional when her 3-year-old daughter Alexis starts school.
“I still have my little one at home now so it won’t be too bad, but when she goes I don’t know what I’ll do,” she said.
Ebony Sifford can relate. Her older daughter, Zary’ll Fair, 5, also started kindergarten Thursday, but her 15-month-old daughter Zevaeh Sifford has a while before she hits the milestone.
“I feel like I’m about to cry, but I’ve been holding it in,” Ebony Sifford said. “I wish I could just sit here with her all day.”
Although Zary’ll graduated from Kiddieland Kindergarten’s pre-kindergarten program last spring, she was still adjusting to her new class Thursday morning.
“I’m nervous because I’ve never been here before,” she said.
Third-grader Tyshia Miller was all smiles as she arrived at school with her sister, fourth-grader Tori; brother, first-grader Tyreze; and mother, Chrissy Caldwell.
The children showed off the new shoes they got in preparation for the start of class.
“I was ready to come back,” Tyshia said. “I was talking about it all summer.”
Scotty Adcock, the new principal at North Elementary, said the day went off without a hitch.
“We’re glad the children are back. It’s nice to have sounds back in the hallways because it’s been a long, quiet summer,” he said.
Adcock taught kindergarten and first grades for nine years at North Rowan Elementary before becoming assistant principal at Shive Elementary.
“It’s been a great homecoming,” he said.
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Nearly 20,000 students headed back to school in Rowan County on Thursday.
The district is still looking to fill at least 15 teaching positions, including three at Henderson Independent High School that come with a minimum $5,000 incentive.
Melissa Rhyne was looking forward to kicking off her 10th year teaching Thursday, while Brittany Keys was gearing up for her first. Both are kindergarten teachers at North Rowan Elementary.
“It’s exciting to see a new group of kids come in and it’s sweet to see them come off the bus and see how much they’ve grown,” Rhyne said.
Rhyne said she’ll ease the children into the school routine by going over basic procedures like how to walk in a line.
Keys, an East Rowan graduate who received her bachelor’s degree from Pfeiffer University, said she was both excited and nervous Thursday.
She was planning to help soothe some of her students with a simple gesture.
“There will be lots of hugs and reminders that they are in school and it’s a fun and safe place,” she said.
North Rowan Elementary has a projected enrollment of about 420 students.
Adcock said his staff has been working hard to get everything in place for students’ arrival.
“It’s funny that parents will come in and start talking at open house about the children being nervous because the staff goes through the same thing,” he said. “We’re all nervous. Last night I don’t think I slept too awful much, but it’s nice to know that we had everything ready.”
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Shanda McFarlin, Hanford-Dole Elementary Principal, said the first day of school is her favorite day of the year.
“It’s just the best day of school because everybody is on their best behavior. They come in with everything they need, and the teachers are all refreshed after sumer break,” she said.
Enrollment at the school was up by about 30 children for a projected total of more than 500 students.
“Everybody walks in with a smile on the first day,” McFarlin said. “They are excited to see which class they are in and meet new friends.”
South Rowan High Principal Don Knox said enrollment was “way up” Thursday with about 1,014 students.
“We had a great day in Raider Nation,” he said. “We are excited about what we are going to accomplish and taking responsibility in working toward increasing our graduation rate.”
Dr. James Davis, the new principal at Knox Middle, said he took the time to get to know the students Thursday, roaming the cafeteria during lunch and meeting and greeting before and after school.
“It was just a way to see the kids,” he said. “The kids were great.”
Davis said Thursday was one of the best opening days he’s ever had.
“The teachers just did a great job at coordinating lessons and hallway transitions,” he said.
The staff at Knox was excited to have the students back on campus, Davis said.
“I was speaking with some teachers this morning and we all said it kind of felt like the night before Christmas,” he said. “We were all eager to have kids back on campus with their energy and their enthusiasm.”

See more photos from the first day of school here

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.