By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Pierce Street Elementary fourth-grader Habbas Ismail admitted it was a little more difficult to get ready for school on Tuesday morning.
Not only was it the first day back after a two-week holiday, but he had to brave single-digit temperatures.
“It is harder because you have to put more clothes on to stay warm,” said Habbas, 9, as he bundled up and walked into school with friend Easton Hoffman, 9, around 7:30 Tuesday morning.
Although a handful of Northeast Mississippi schools began the spring semester on Monday, the rest of them – including Tupelo and Lee County – returned from Christmas break on Tuesday. Some began at regular times and others delayed their starts by about two hours to help crank buses in the frigid cold.
Pierce Street Principal Kenneth Goralczyk said maintenance workers had been at the school for the past three or four days checking its heat and running water, and that some were there as late as 9 p.m. Monday.
“The good thing about Pierce Street kids is they want to be back and the teachers want to be back,” he said. “With (Superintendent) Dr. (Gearl) Loden, we treated the day before we got out for Christmas as if we would be back the next day. The kids are excited and ready.”
Loden credited transportation director Lee Stratton for helping get the semester off to a smooth start.
“Our transportation mechanics and drivers had a great plan developed under Mr. Stratton’s leadership that worked well,” he said.
Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said the district had difficulties getting a handful of buses cranked on Tuesday morning, but all else went OK despite the cold.
Inside the classroom, Pierce Street fifth-grade language arts teacher Cathy Enis planned a goal-setting unit to help jump-start the new semester and knock off the rust from the break.
“We’re finished with halftime, and now it is time for the third quarter,” she said.
Meanwhile, third-grade teacher Candace McFarland designed an arts-integration activity to get students excited about being back in school. Pupils would have a “silent conversation” with group members, sharing their thoughts by writing them. The groups then would pull out details and explain them to the class, possibly even illustrating their thoughts.
“Because they love art so much, it gets their attention,” she said. “They don’t see it as work, they see it as fun.”
Mooreville Middle School Principal Roman Doty said it was “business as usual” at the school once students arrived.
“The biggest thing is keeping them in a routine and something they are used to doing,” he said.