By Jonathan E. Coleman
and Justin Vick
Martha McCall could barely contain her excitement as students — and in many cases, their parents — filed into Harrisburg Elementary School Monday. It was the start of what would be a very smooth first day for schools across the area.
“It went really smoothly,” she said at day’s end. “We didn’t skip a beat.”
McCall said enrollment numbers are up this year, and the school was still enrolling students. She estimated about 1,075 students were enrolled Monday, nearing the number of students that the school served before Pitts School Road Elementary opened four years ago.
Across town, Hickory Ridge High School was experiencing a full slate of students for the first time, after opening last year with no senior class.
Hickory Ridge principal Dan Meehan said lessons learned last year played a part in making this year’s first day of school easy.
“We’re only dealing with one class of freshmen this year instead of three classes last year,” he said. “Being in the building all summer long made a big difference in terms of getting ready.”
Students were happy to help their new classmates find their way through the school, many serving as tour guides between classes.
“We definitely got bigger,” Meehan said, estimating student enrollment at nearly 1,250 students, or about 300 more students that on the school’s opening day last year. “We can feel it.”
Superintendent plans many first-week school visits
Sensing some first-day jitters from students in Brian Dulin’s third-grade class, Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Barry Shepherd prescribed his treatment for butterflies in the stomach.
He told the Weddington Hills Elementary students to take deep breaths.
Shepherd visited five other schools on the first day of class. He hopes to maintain that pace for the rest of the week — without losing his breath — so he will have visited every school in the system.
With a semester as superintendent under his belt and his first full school year ahead of him, Shepherd’s visits to schools are not solely about meeting people anymore. He said he’s also looking more at process and how schools work.
And he was impressed with what he saw Monday.
“I think our custodians, maintenance, transportation and technology folks have all done an excellent job to get ready for today,” he said. “I’m impressed with all that was done to get schools ready.”
Shepherd is also looking ahead to launching the system’s strategic plan next month during a televised Board of Education meeting.
“We’re taking a good system and making it better,” Shepherd said. “That’s what the process is about.”
Shepherd said he was pleased to see the collaboration between staff and the community in determining the system’s overriding goals through 2011.
Cabarrus County Schools would have begun the process last fall, but postponed planning when the previous superintendent, Harold Winkler, announced his retirement in July 2007.
Shepherd was lured from the top education role at Elkin City Schools in January to continue the progress made by Winkler, which included unprecedented school construction that stemmed from the passing of multiple school bond referendums.
But on the first day of school, Shepherd’s concerns were elsewhere.
“I see children that are safe and well-cared for,” Shepherd said as Katie Hill discussed classroom expectations with her third-graders. “We need to make sure we get the routines established, and we then return them safely to their parents at the end of the day.”
• Contact Justin Vick: [email protected].