Even after 26 years of celebrating the first day of school as an educator, Aiken County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford says the excitement never goes away.
“(Students) come to school and do their very best on the first day. It’s our job to keep them elevated, keep them up there; don’t let time wear them down,” Alford said.
The superintendent began his third year in the district the same way he has done in the past by touring schools in Aiken, Graniteville, North Augusta and Monetta. His stops included Silver Bluff High, Belvedere Elementary, Leavelle McCampbell Middle and Oakwood Windsor Elementary.
At Byrd Elementary, Alford received information about an increase in enrollment from first-year principal Renae Enlow, as well as turnout results from the previous night’s Meet the Teacher night. This was the first time in a number of years that parents and students have had a chance to meet teachers before the first day of school.
“Some classrooms had 100 percent of students show up,” Enlow said.
Another new item for teachers and students at Byrd Elementary were new learning cottages, a more spacious and modern version of portables. The cottages were not ready for move-in until two days before the first day, creating a mad dash for those teachers to be ready for day one of classes.
“Other teachers in the building jumped in and helped these teachers get settled the past three days,” Enlow said.
Just up the hill from Byrd Elementary is the new Leavelle McCampbell Middle building, celebrating its inaugural first day of school. Classes were previously held in a 90-year old building that housed a number of age groups. The new building has updated technology, including flat screen televisions for communications and smart boards in all classrooms.
Alford said schools across Aiken County will also have frozen yogurt machines in the cafeteria for students to purchase. A select number of schools will begin the soft-serve option this year. Leavelle McCampbell Middle has special VIP areas for students to earn the opportunity to sit in booth-style seating tucked away from the rest of the cafeteria.
Alford also visited local businesses in Aiken County to build relationships.
“Dr. Alford always likes to stop by businesses on the first day of school just to greet business people and show that we are interested in building partnerships so our students can be college and career ready,” ACPS director of communications Merry Glenne Piccolino said.