By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Thomas Street Elementary second-grader Aniyah Sherer celebrated the start of a new school year with freshly painted fingernails.
Thanks to her mom’s handiwork, she came to school with black nails accented with white and pink polka dots.
“I’m excited about learning,” Aniyah said, admitting she also felt a little nervous on her first day. In particular, she hoped to learn a lot about math this year. Monday was the first day of classes for students in the Tupelo Public School District.
Despite a morning rain shower that hit around the time parents and students arrived at school, it was a successful opening day, Superintendent Gearl Loden said.
“We had a great first day of school today,” Loden said. “The planning and time dedicated by our teachers and administrators to making today a success has truly paid off. I can’t wait to see the many great things that will occur in our district this year.”
Tupelo High School seniors still met at Harrisburg Baptist Church for their traditional first-day parade on to campus. Because of the rain, many of them congregated under the awning near the church’s front door.
“It goes by fast,” senior Nick Coggins said of his time in Tupelo Schools.
Classmate Brian Haadsma said it was “weird” to think back to his days of kindergarten that now seem like a distant memory.
Meanwhile, a new class of kindergartners was beginning its journey about a mile away at Parkway Elementary.
“I’m excited about seeing the toy trucks,” said Shaw Prewitt, 5.
He and his twin, Brooks, are both in the same class. They visited their teacher, Janna Fairley, last week as a trial run.
“I hope this is their start to adulthood and meeting kids they don’t know,” said their father, Brad Prewitt. “The teachers and environment seem excellent here.”
Diya Allahi, 5, was tearful as she headed to class, but her father, Sal, reassured her. Diya’s brother, who is in third grade, had also given her advice before her first day.
“He was telling her to raise her hand when she talks to the teacher,” Sal Allahi said.
Nikki Pratt’s daughter, Pier’syn Gambrel, was a kindergartner last year. Being the mother of a first grader on the first day of school is preferable, Pratt said.
“I’m not a cry baby this year like last year,” Pratt said. “Letting go on the first day is easier than it was for kindergarten. We’re at the same school and her teacher is as nice and welcoming as the one last year was.”
Across town, Abby Dyson was nervous about her first day at a new school, Milam Elementary. In anticipation of the big day, she had a special breakfast: a cinnamon role from Atlanta Bread Company. Interviewed after the school’s morning assembly, she said the day had gotten off to a good start.
“My teacher (Patricia Griffin) is really nice and funny,” she said.
Parkway Principal Mitzi Moore and Thomas Street Principal Chad Chism were both leading new schools on Monday after each working in Pontotoc City Schools last year. Both said the first day was going well.
Chism noted that Thomas Street has at least 60 new kindergarten students than last year and has had to add new classes.
“It is an indication the district is moving in the right direction,” he said. “We’re excited about that.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Street second-grader Jon Thomas Waller, who like Aniyah is in Tina Siddell’s class, was hopeful he would see his old friends. They are in a different pod than him this year, but he thought he would find them some time during the day.
“I’m happy because I’m having fun in school,” he said. “Also, I’m happy because I get to see my friends.”
IN ADDITION TO TUPELO, students in the Alcorn County, Amory and Benton County School Districts also began classes on Monday. Booneville, Chickasaw County, Houston, Prentiss County and West Point start today, and several others begin later this week. Lee County Schools start Wednesday.