Back-to-School: Lexington One, Richland One school districts welcome new semeseter

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Brand-new crayon boxes were opened, new shoes squeaked and countless introductions were made Monday at schools across the Midlands. Lexington One and Richland One school districts started the new year with hugs, tears and goodbyes from students and parents.

A steady stream of parents received visitor stickers at Oak Grove Elementary School, and the school quickly filled with families greeting teachers, who settled the kids into their desks for a day of preparing for the semester to come. Principal Sherry Cariens said it was a busier-than-normal morning but that everything had run smoothly.

Cariens, a principal for 10 years, five of those at Oak Grove Elementary, spent the morning in front of the school welcoming people .

“I love seeing the faces on the little kids who are so excited to be here,” she said. “I even saw a younger one today who was crying because he wasn’t old enough for kindergarten yet and had to leave.”

Oak Grove Elementary is coming off of receiving major awards in the previous two school years. It was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2012 for academic excellence and earned Lighthouse School status last spring for teaching and demonstrating leadership. Cariens said she and her staff are aiming to be a Palmetto’s Finest School this year.

“I feel like we are a strong school,” she said.

Richland One kicked off its first day of school with a message of student safety and success. Interim Superintendent Cynthia Cash-Greene stood with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to urge parents and children to be cautious on roads and pedestrian walkways as they get students to school.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Cash-Greene said.

Cash-Greene also made special visits to Satchel Ford Elementary School and Heyward Gibbes Middle School to meet principals, teachers and students and encourage them to be ready for the new school year.

“I see happy faces. I see children smiling and anxious about coming to school” Cash-Greene said.

Sarah Smith, principal at Heyward Gibbes Middle, said the school’s theme for the year is “Power of One.” The school plans to engage the community with an open-door policy as well as ensure students are provided with adult support with their studies.

“Our expectations for the new year are a high quality of instruction for our students,” Smith said. “One thing we want for our students is to set goals.”

Teachers filed students into classrooms and began taking roll call to begin developing relationships with their students.

“I was kind of anxious. I couldn’t sleep last night,” said sixth-grade teacher Walter Priester.

Priester said he is excited about interacting with his students and helping them grow academically.

“I want to find out where they are so I know where to take them,” he said.

Members from the City Year program, which takes individuals who are 17 to 24 years old, will offer tutoring, one-on-one interaction and additional resources to Heyward Gibbes Middle. City Year Team Leader Zack Draper said each volunteer will work with 18 students at a time to act as a support system to the school.

This year is the first time Draper has worked at the middle school level, and he said he is excited about the school’s academic and social culture.

“It’s very new and exciting to be at a middle school,” he said.

At Sandel Elementary School, new Principal Claudia Brooks whizzed through the hallways answering parents’ questions, checking in on teachers and trying to calm crying kindergarten students during their first day.

“The morning has been exciting and also challenging with kids on the first day of school missing mom and dad,” Brooks said. “We’re big on customer service. We’re answering questions in a polite and consistent manner.”

Brooks, a 14-year educator, attended Eau Claire High School as a student. Being a Richland One principal felt like being home, she said.

“It hit me 7:30 this morning that I’m the principal of my own building,” she said.

Categories: Education