First day of school brings smiles, tears across Tupelo

TUPELO – Cydney Grammer needed some extra momentum to get into the classroom as Tupelo Public School District opened the 2009-2010 school year on Friday.
The Joyner Elementary kindergartner dug in her heels with a little bit of giggly shyness about her first day in Victoria Derveloy’s kindergarten class.
“She thought it was game,” said her mom, Megan Grammer, after they got Cydney situated in class. “She was ready for us to chase her down the hall. She didn’t shed a tear.”
Outside, Lakyn Standifer couldn’t wait to begin their first day at Joyner Elementary.
Armed with a Tinkerbell backpack, Standifer marched feet ahead of her mother Chetiqua McAlister into the school for her first day of kindergarten.
“She is ready,” Chetiqua McAlister said.
Riley Baker had tearful start in Brenna Alberson’s kindergarten class, but before Principal Glenda Scott could sing a cheerful good morning to welcome students, he was sitting happily on the rug.
Sad start
This year, the back-to-school tears weren’t limited to kindergartners and their parents.
At Tupelo High School, students and staff were mourning the loss of senior John Paul Frerer, who was killed Thursday in a bike accident as he rode from Tupelo to Oxford.
“Certainly it was an up-and-down day for a lot of our students and faculty,” said Tupelo High School Principal Mac Curlee. “There were times we had celebration and times we had tears.”
Members of the Class of 2010 rode their bikes onto campus to honor Frerer’s memory.
“That speaks very strongly to the Tupelo spirit,” said first-year Tupelo Public School District Superintendent Randy Shaver.
Across the district, officials said the first day of school largely went smoothly with just a few bumps and glitches, despite an elementary reorganization that shuffled school attendance zones, teachers and grade levels.
“This has definitely been the smoothest first day of school I’ve ever been involved in,” as an assistant superintendent or superintendent, said Shaver, who made it to 13 campuses on his first day of school as superintendent.
At Lawndale Elementary, students in the third, fourth and fifth grades had a field day, literally. Instead of having students spend the day sitting in desks, Principal Terry Harbin and his staff let the students rotating through a series of activities.
“It allows them to get to know each other,” Harbin said as he walked through the halls high-fiving students who were moving between stations. “All the children seem to be excited to come into school.”
In addition to a session on school rules and hearing screenings, the students watched a rocket launch, jumped in an inflatable, got a safety talk from the Tupelo firefighters and participated in team building relays and a tug of war.
“They’re learning how to work as a team already,” third-grade teacher Annette Akins said as her class completed a relay where students had to pass a hoop down the line while holding hands.
The activities got a A-plus from the student body.
“I like everything,” said third-grader Jake White.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal