Thousands of children said farewell to summer and hit the books on Monday, the first day of school in Richmond County.
From brand new students to veteran teachers, area schools seemed to ease into the new academic year with little to no complications.
“It’s been seamless this morning,” said Wendy Kelly-Jordan, principal of Mineral Springs Elementary School, at around 10 a.m. on Monday. “Really great. Everybody got where they needed to go, and we’re just really excited for the year.”
In the halls of Mineral Springs, students were all smiles as they walked single file with tucked-in shirttails and the occasional light-up shoes.
Joshua Hoover, 6, sat in his new classroom, quietly reading a book to himself.
“I wasn’t scared,” he said about going into the first grade. “I was excited. I had to get new shoes because mine were getting all busted up.”
A few doors down, teacher Jennifer Beck’s “Kinder-Kingdom” kindergarten class was decorated with purple cloth and some very “royal” reading spots — including a cushy chair designed like a throne — to accommodate the new Common Core standards that will be employed this year throughout the entire county.
“The state of North Carolina and Richmond County are going to standards-based education,” said Superintendent George Norris. The new standards will not only incorporate language arts, reading, writing and mathematics, Norris said, but will utilize several new essential standards.
“For a long time, folks thought North Carolina’s standard course of study was a mile wide and an inch deep,” Norris said. “They have narrowed that mile-wide lake into a smaller Common Core of learning that they think North Carolinians should have.”
Norris explained that the new standards will involve a greater amount of testing.
“The measures of student learning will also be used to measure how well the teachers are teaching … as a part of their evaluation,” Norris said.
The superintendent said the district also hoped to provide more technology to children in the schools.
“We have such a diverse population, and we don’t want economic situations to affect children at school,” Norris said.
Jim Butler, principal of Hamlet Middle School, said the first day was a success for Hamlet as well.
“It has been great,” Butler said as students made their way through the halls on Monday morning. “We’ve got a great group of kids coming in.”
Many new sixth graders spent part of the morning learning to open their lockers, including 11-year-old Brianna Collins.
“I like it,” Collins said of her new school. She will now have to balance six classes instead of just one.
Last year’s Teacher of the Year, Mark Burr, hit the ground running with his students as he called them to the whiteboard to share their knowledge of fossils.
Students at Hamlet Middle School will participate in a “team system” this year, Butler said, which will keep the same groups of students working together throughout the year.
Meanwhile, at Richmond Senior High School, new Principal Keith McKenzie called the day “uneventful.”
“It went really well,” McKenzie said about the first few hours of school. “The faculty, students and parents all said everything was great, and that comes from the preparation of faculty and staff.”
Teachers Lisa Campbell and Donna Elliot said they were excited to have new computers in the computer labs, in addition to a new 3-D classroom in the works, which will enable students to learn with state-of-the-art digital teaching tools.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.