Originally created 08/19/00

Pupils, teachers reunite



Richmond and Columbia county pupils had a typical day of nervous anticipation and excitement about starting a new school year Friday.

They were mostly unaware of laws passed this summer that will affect the future of their education.

Other than smaller class sizes, the effects of Gov. Roy Barnes' Education Reform Bill is not being felt in the area, officials said.

And, other than a few air conditioning problems in Richmond County and traffic congestion in Columbia County, superintendents say the new year started out fine.

"I expect the usual first-day glitches, but overall things are going well," Richmond County Superintendent Charles Larke said while making stops at area schools. "So far, everything is going great."

High school students in Richmond County were the first in the district to start the school day. Most started at 7:45 a.m..

Bryon Williams, a 10th-grader who transferred to Lucy C. Laney High School from Hephzibah High, came to school - music blasting, bass thumping - in his black Pontiac Trans-Am.

"This is a very good school," he said. "They've got a lot of pretty girls, the teachers seem nice, and I haven't met anybody mean yet."

Byron admitted though that he was a little nervous about going to the new school.

"I hope everything goes fine," Byron said. "My cousin goes to school here, and he told me if I have any problems with anybody bigger than me trying to beat me up he will straighten it."

Across town from Laney, Jeni Randall waited in front of her Wrightsboro Road home for a bus to take her to Langford Middle school. Friday was her first day at the middle school; last year she attended Sue Reynolds Elementary school.

"I am 51 percent excited and 49 percent scared," she said while dangling her book bag, dressed in uniform attire - khaki shorts and a white shirt. "Moving up is exciting, but it's scary because I'm going to be with a bunch of older students, so it's kind of weird, but I guess I'll get used to it."

At Sue Reynolds, on Wrightsboro Road, parents fought bumper-to-bumper, back-up-and-turn-around traffic in the small gravel parking lot - a problem officials say will be eliminated when the new school opens next year.

Carmen Polen complained about the traffic but said it is the only bad thing about the school where her sons, a kindergartner and a fourth-grader, attend.

"They've got a lot of good teachers over here, and the principal is definitely good, but the traffic is always a problem," she said.

Inside the school, Principal Beverly Hite welcomed pupils and walked the halls to make sure everything was OK.

Parents of some kindergartners were also anxious. A few stayed with their children to make sure the pupils would be all right without them.

Mike Davis and his fiancee, Lori Parrish, watched as Mr. Davis' daughter, Catherine, colored a picture of a school house with the rest of her class.

"I was more nervous than she was," Mr. Davis said. "I have first-day jitters."

"She'll be OK," Ms. Parrish said, patting Mr. Davis on the arm before giving Catherine a goodbye kiss.

Kindergarten teacher Debbie Terzia said parents usually have a harder time than the pupils.

"The children are wonderful," Ms. Terzia said. "Occasionally we get some tears from the children, but it's usually the moms."

Shawn Hawk followed her twin sons' school bus to Sue Reynolds.

"Mommy, I told you not to come here," Zachery said, looking up from coloring.

"I know," Mrs. Hawk said. "But I wanted to make sure you got here OK. You did real well today riding the bus."

Her other son Quinton was in a room across the hall.

"I'm leaving," she said, blowing a kiss at them. "Mind your teachers, OK."

In the upper grades, Alita Smith, a new sixth-grader at Tutt Middle, walked toward the school's entrance with her mother, Theresa. The former A. Brian Merry Elementary School pupil was anxious about the first day.

"I'm excited because it's a new day of learning," she said, wearing the school's red uniform colors. "My friends said it will be fun over here; I hope so. I've got butterflies in my stomach."

Mrs. Smith said she also was nervous about the new school.

"It's a different scene," she said. "I don't know what to expect. I'm worried about boys, violence, drugs, but I think she'll be OK."

In Columbia County, traffic congestion at Lakeside Middle and High schools kept officials busy while pupils dealt with starting a new school year.

About 18,800 pupils were expected for the 2000-2001 school year in Columbia County. But enrollment figures will fluctuate over the next few weeks as more pupils arrive, school Superintendent Tommy Price said.

"Usually that first day it's 500 to 600 under what we project," Mr. Price said.

Some pupils arriving at school Friday were already planning for the next few years to come.

"I`m glad this is my last year," said Lakeside Middle eighth-grader Daniel Sprouse, 13. "I want to hurry up and go to high school."

Lakeside Middle seventh-grader Lynn Green was also looking at life beyond middle school.

"I just want to finish school and maybe go to college and get a good education," Lynn, 12, said.

Dr. Larke expects more than 36,000 pupils to have registered by Labor Day, an increase from the more than 35,000 pupils from last year.

Some of the increase is being seen at Cross Creek High School. The school has enrolled about 300 more students, raising the enrollment to 1,400, Principal Lynn Warr said.

Mrs. Warr said about a dozen of the new students did not have class schedules Friday.

"We had to adjust schedules to make sure we didn't put everybody in one class," she said. "But we made all of the adjustments and ran on schedule. It's been a breeze. One child broke a fingernail, but that's been the only major thing."

Safety tips for motorists:

Obey reduced speed limits posted in school zones.

Stop for school buses loading and unloading pupils.

Drive with your headlights on. Using your headlights makes it easier to see and be seen in dim light or at dawn and dusk.

Watch for children riding bicycles to and from school.

Reduce speed in residential areas, and be alert for late pupils running to catch the bus.

Source: AAA Auto Club South

Staff Writer Peggy Ussery contributed to this article.

Reach Faith Johnson at (706) 823-3765 orfaithj@augustachronicle.com.