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Classes resume in Rowan-Salisbury schools with the promise of a challenging new year

GRANITE QUARRY — It was the first time many of the sixth-graders had been inside the gym at Erwin Middle School. When they filed in first thing Monday morning, they were greeted with a standing ovation.

“It’s kind of a tradition here at Erwin,” Principal Daniel Herring said.

Monday was the start of a new school year, and the jump from elementary school to middle school can be nerve-wracking for many students. So seventh- and eighth-graders cheered the new arrivals on to help ease them into their new school family.

This year, Erwin’s sixth-grade class has 300 students, bringing the school’s total to more than 800.

Across the district, similar ceremonies occurred as faculty and staff welcomed more than 19,000 children back to school. Superintendent Lynn Moody said school and district staff members spend all summer preparing for a new year, and seeing students arrive at last is a reward like no other.

“You get to see students as they come in with all their excitement and anxiety and eagerness to start, their eagerness for a new beginning,” Moody said.

It’s also the execution of an immense strategy.

“It’s so amazing to me that we can have 20,000 kids emerge into all new locations with all new teachers and within five minutes teaching and learning are taking place,” Moody said.

As students found their way through unfamiliar hallways and sought out classrooms, teachers prepared for big change.

The 2018-19 school year is special. This is the first year Rowan-Salisbury Schools is considered a renewal district, giving it the same freedoms as charter schools. The new path is being paved by the district’s teachers, who lead from design teams at each individual school.

The first team meetings on Aug. 16 sparked conversations and helped district staff sketch out rough plans for future changes to theh calendar, testing and staffing.

While there won’t be any drastic changes this year, students may have fewer tests if district teachers have their way.

But Monday, it was all about getting amped up for the coming year. Herring encouraged his students to think about their futures.

“Every single one of you is good at something. Every single one of you has something to offer,” he said.

School is a chance to uncover that passion — and any path forward would be through a classroom.

“No matter what you want to do in your life, I guarantee you’ll need an education to do it,” Herring said. “You can’t just drop out of school and into a good job.”

Herring encouraged students to believe in themselves, to surround themselves with good people and to be bold.

And if there’s anything else the new school year will throw their way, he said, “Bring it on.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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