“We had a great day,” said Michael Barber, superintendent of Pell City schools. “You couldn’t have asked our principals, teachers, bus drivers or any of our employees to do a better job than they did today.”
Barber credits the commitment of employees and the pre-planning for the upcoming school year for such a smooth first day of school for students.
“We had a very smooth start, even with the bridge being down on (U.S.) 78,” he said.
The bridge over Wolf Creek on U.S. 78, which is less than a mile away from Eden Elementary School, was closed two weeks ago. The Alabama Department of Transportation is replacing the bridge and will close that portion of U.S. 78 for about a year while a new bridge is constructed.
Barber said pre-registration for students gave school officials an idea of student numbers for the upcoming school year.
He said new students were registering today at various schools.
“I saw a lot of students who recently moved into our area,” Barber said. “I feel like our numbers will be up this year, and we are pleased to say that.”
Barber said he expects to see enrollment numbers go up until Labor Day, if history repeats itself.
“At the same time, I cannot brag about our folks enough,” he said. “It’s been a really good first day.”
It was a smooth day for Sylacauga city schools as its roughly 2,300 students attended their first day of class Monday.
Superintendent Todd Freeman, who took his position in July, said the system’s four schools experienced minimal problems, and there is much to be excited about in the upcoming year.
“Today has been a good first day,” he said. “I made it by all four school buildings this morning, and by 8:30 all the traffic had cleared, buses were in and students were in their rooms. It was running just like we’ve been in school for several weeks already.”
Also, the transition into the new 31-classroom addition at Sylacauga High School “seemed to flow very smoothly,” Freeman said. “Students got to their correct places without any problems.”
Issues encountered, specifically concerning traffic congestion, will work themselves out in a few days, Freeman said.
Some noteworthy academic improvements this year are: the addition of AVID testing, a college entrance “primer” for middle school students; additional Advanced Placement course offerings at SHS with “more students taking Advanced Placement and pre-AP classes than we’ve ever had in Sylacauga,” Freeman said; and a greatly expanded dual enrollment program for high school students through a partnership with CACC and local businesses and industries.
“I am anxious to see how these new programs are going to benefit our students,” Freeman said. “There’s some real fun stuff happening.
Talladega City Schools Superintendent Doug Campbell said he toured the system’s schools Monday and had been in contact with the system’s principals throughout the day.
“The schools are saying all the procedures were followed and everything went well. Everyone seems to be very pleased with the way things went. … We are looking forward to the rest of the year.”
He said he had not had time to “crunch the numbers” to compare overall enrollment with last year. “I do know there were still new enrollments coming in this afternoon, and I know we will be looking at more of a five day window to determine our enrollment.”
The city’s one junior high school, Zora Ellis, is the only school in the coverage area to be designated as “failing” under the legislation passed by the state earlier this year, although Campbell said he did not notice a substantial decrease when he visited earlier in the day. After speaking with principal Shari Dye, Campbell confirmed that new students were still arriving well into the day, although enrollment was down by small amounts.
The first day estimated enrollment at Ellis was 318, versus 320 to 330 last year, he said.
Talladega County Board of Education public information officer Gayle Jones reported there were no issues at any of the county schools and the first day for the students went smoothly.
“The many hours of planning by our administrators and staff were evident in that students were engaged in instruction almost immediately,” Jones said. “There is lots of excitement in the air with our new technology and other initiatives. We are looking forward to a wonderful school year!”
Staff writers David Atchison, Emily Adams, Chris Norwood and Shane Dunaway contributed to this story.