Tupelo, Lee County schools begin new year

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – As the sun was just beginning its daily climb, Tupelo High School seniors Kara Young and Holly Harrington stood in the parking lot at Harrisburg Baptist Church.
The two girls had been best friends since they were 3 years old and in preschool, Harrington said. Now, they had gathered with classmates before 7 a.m. on a Thursday morning to celebrate the start of their final year as Tupelo students.
Mostly decked in blue and gold T-shirts proclaiming the Class of 2012, those students began the day with an early-morning parade from the church parking lot onto the high school campus.
“We are really excited to start the year,” Young said.
Thursday was the first day of school for students in several Northeast Mississippi school districts, including Tupelo, Lee County, Nettleton and Baldwyn. Thousands of students packed up school supplies, dusted off backpacks and returned to classrooms.
Across town from where Tupelo’s seniors were having their parade, Carver Elementary first-grader Cameron Roberts, 6, also was feeling excited.
Cameron, who attended Church Street Elementary as a kindergartner last year, was moving to a new school after Carver and Church Street merged. However, his father, Wesley Roberts, said he didn’t need to do anything special to get his son prepared for school.
“I’m nervous because it is a new school, but he was ready,” Roberts said. “He woke up ready. He was ready to see his friends.”
Meanwhile, at Saltillo Primary, Principal Ken Smith said the first day went smoothly despite an enrollment growth from about 790 to about 820 students.
“Our parents were really patient,” he said. “Those who wanted to walk their kids got in and out. They allowed us to keep traffic moving.”
Lee County Superintendent Mike Scott said everything went smoothly on the first day.
He said there seemed to be a lot of new registration but the district didn’t have enrollment figures available yet.
“It was just a good first day,” Scott said. “I was on most of the campuses today. Teachers at the elementary schools were teaching procedures, and they were having class at the middle and high school.
“I think our teachers have really done an outstanding job and jumped on board and gotten school started.”
Tupelo’s interim superintendent, David Meadows, had similar feelings about the opening day in his district. The district is still compiling its numbers, he said, but it appears it will reach its projected student count of 7,400.
“We had many examples of students and staff treating each other with dignity, respect and caring; as a result, the first day of school was outstanding,” Meadows said. “I’m very pleased to report the day has gone smoothly. I witnessed teaching and learning in our classrooms and students excited to begin the school year.”
Both districts were taking precautions for the heat, such as distributing water to bus riders.
Tuesday also was the first day with students for several teachers and administrators. Lee Bruce started as Mooreville Middle School’s principal after spending the past six years as an assistant principal at Mooreville High School.
“Thanks to a great staff, it has gone really smoothly,” he said of the first day. “The teachers have done an outstanding job, and so have the secretary and counselors and assistant principals. That made it easier on me.”
Schools celebrated the new year in different ways. Lawndale Elementary in Tupelo held its annual first-day field day.
Students came in groups to the school’s cafeteria and competed in “Simon Says.” They also witnessed local chef David Leathers carving several fruits.
The “Simon Says” competition, led by retired educator Danny Horton, focused on teaching the students about such positive behaviors as listening and being respectful.
“We wanted this to be a learning experience, but we also wanted students to have fun while doing it,” Lawndale challenge teacher Teresa Gregory said.
In Verona, new students were given a tour of their campus.
“You have first-day jitters, and the majority of the first-day jitters are about the kindergarten parents because they are new to the school,” Verona Principal Temeka Shannon said. “We are busy trying to make a good first impression on our kindergarten parents.
“I am also so excited to see all of the returning kids and talk about what they’ve done over the summer and how they’ve grown.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com