By Cinde Ingram
HIGH POINT — Back to school reactions ranged from tears to fist bumps on Monday as the youngest students returned to Fairview Elementary School along with other Guilford County Schools on the traditional calendar.
Teacher Tanya Rodriguez said she was seeing evidence of “some nerves, but a lot of smiles” as students arrived at 7 a.m. at Fairview.
“Tears from some and parents, too,” said Quasheba Carter, a teacher who reported hearing more than one parent say “I don’t want to leave my baby.”
Many parents walked with their children through Fairview’s brightly colored hallways. “The story begins in kindergarten” was the message outside teacher Deidra Andrews’ classroom, where kindergarteners were busy at their desks.
David Gonzalez stood in the hallway with his three young children as his wife got one of their two kindergarten students settled into class. “It’s a little rough the first day,” he said. “It’s hard to let her go but she’s actually doing pretty good now that she’s distracted.”
“So far, precious,” said Nicollette Jones-Flowers, a first-grade teacher who was wearing a first grade crew T-shirt and helping some of the school’s approximately 450 students find their classrooms.
Fairview Principal Abe Hege described it as a great start. “We’ve got a lot of excitement coming from last year into this year,” he said. “I think we saw more of our families at this Open House than we have in years past. The rain opened up on us from 6-7, but everybody bonded together and we moved everything inside the gym. Our parents did a great job and teachers loved it. This year we’re seeing a little more parental support, which is always great.”
Members of Wesley Memorial Church had cooked more than 600 hotdogs for the Open House and the Wednesday evening downpour didn’t damper anyone’s interest, said Pam Greene, a student support specialist at Fairview. “The families got to interact more because of the rain,” she said.
Inside High Point Central Monday, high school teachers wasted no time in getting back to academics.
“I’m not going to make you shout out your answers,” teacher Shaun Trepal told his 10th-grade world history class. “Don’t get down on yourself if you’re still shaking the dust of summer off your brain. We’re here to learn.”
Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras talked with students and staff as she toured Allen Jay Elementary, Ferndale Middle and High Point Central Monday morning before traveling to Northeast High, Northeast Middle and Stokesdale Elementary later in the day.
While visiting the ProStart culinary class at Central, Contreras asked students whether they were willing to take on the challenge of planning and preparing a holiday luncheon for her staff of about 25. She said she usually pays about $1,500 for the luncheon and would rather pay that to help support the class. Contreras told them she expects the students’ white jackets to be pristine when they serve the meal.
High Point Central junior Zarria Quick, 15, said she felt nervous but confident after accepting the superintendent’s challenge.
During Contreras’ visits to various schools, she makes sure they have received books and new materials the Board of Education invested in and her staff ordered.
“It’s not that I don’t trust them, but I’m inspecting what I expect,” Contreras said. “On the most basic level, it’s just to welcome students, staff and families back. Also I’m checking to make sure the materials are here and that our facilities staff adequately cleaned the buildings. I expect on the first day of school the buildings to be sparkling, that they’ve mowed the grass and that their flowers and mulch are in place to make the school bright and welcoming.”
Central Principal Shelley Nixon-Green estimated 30 students showed up at the school Monday in addition to the more than 1,300 enrolled.
“Our teachers are starting with teaching on day one,” Nixon-Green said. “Teachers are focused on teaching, building relationships and continuing growth. We have a great staff. We’re really excited about the new school year. One of our challenges is making sure we continue to provide the opportunities that all of our students deserve in academics and otherwise. As a staff, we call those opportunity gaps. That’s a daily challenge and that’s what a lot of our students face.”
In addition to visiting six traditional calendar schools on their first day of classes, Contreras went to the juvenile detention facility where GCS teachers work with incarcerated students.
“They are our most vulnerable students, and often they’re throw-away kids,” Contreras said. “I want them to know ‘you’re not a throw-away kid.’ People forget they’re there. I want to make sure the books were delivered to the jail and that they’re there in class. Very often they will write to me. Last year two of the students kept writing to me for more and more books. That’s important to me that even though they are in detention that they know they get a second chance.”