By midday Friday, Richmond County Deputy Superintendent Gene Sullivan had knocked on wood so many times his knuckles had begun to swell.
"I can't remember a school year starting off this smoothly," Mr. Sullivan said. "It's looking really good. It's been a tremendous start."
Richmond County schools reopened with no problems whatsoever as 36,000 schoolchildren returned from summer vacation.
Mr. Sullivan and other school officials had braced themselves for the worst after redrawing school zones and altering bus routes this summer, opening three new elementary schools, and starting the county'sfirst International Baccalaureate school this fall.
"I talked with eight principals (Friday), and they all reported no problems. We're all knocking on wood," Mr. Sullivan said.
He said the high school principals he talked to all praised a new initiative this year, the freshman orientation program. Each high school held an open house of sorts for incoming freshmen and their parents in the week leading up to the start of the school year. The program allowed freshmen to explore the high school, meet their teachers, find their lockers and get acquainted with the differences between high school and middle school life for students.
In other school news, the Richmond County Board of Education met Thursday night and discussed a variety of issues affecting the reopening of schools, including a timeline for adopting new textbooks, the start of the International Baccalaureate school at the Academy of Richmond County and unexpected teacher retirements.
New schoolbooks will be selected this year by a team of teachers, parents and administrators and should be in schools for the start of the 2002-03 year.
The International Baccalaureate school, in its inaugural session, attracted 40 pupils from around the county. The holistic educational approach to schooling is expected to expand next year.
School officials are looking at ways to eliminate unexpected retirements by teachers, some of whom retire days before the beginning of the school year even though they signed a contract for that year. Dr. Missoura Ashe, the assistant superintendent in charge of personnel, has begun enforcing a policy that revokes the state teaching license for educators who do not honor their contracts. The policy has the full support of the Board of Education.
Also at Thursday night's meeting, school officials listened to a plea from W. Franklin Boulineau, a Murphy Street resident, to remove the gate behind the new Hephzibah Elementary School.
Mr. Boulineau said he and other residents on the narrow street were assured by school officials that a gate would not be part of the new school. He said he is afraid teachers will park on the street, parents will drop their children off at this back entrance to the school, and school employees will have smoke breaks out on the street.
School officials told Mr. Boulineau that smoking is not permitted on or near school grounds. The school board voted to have the Murphy Street gate closed and locked at all times and not to be opened except in emergencies.
Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.