First day of school for Charles County Public School students
New principal, students settle in at Berry Elementary
Tuesday was the first day of school for over 26,000 Charles County Public Schools students. Across the county, hundreds of teachers welcomed new students to their classroom.
School system spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said that as of Friday, enrollment was 26,037.
The school system still has 21 teacher positions open. Long-term substitute teachers will fill those positions as the school system continues to hire permanent teachers for the school year, O’Malley-Simpson said.
The number is slightly less than the 25 positions open at the start of last school year.
The first day was a very busy one for the staff at Berry Elementary School in Waldorf, including its new principal, Sandra Taylor.
“It’s going to be a great year; I’m very excited,” Taylor said just before the start of school Monday. “The staff is very excited. The students … most times are excited to be coming to school, so just to keep that intensity and excitement throughout the entire year is one of my goals.”
Taylor was appointed principal of Berry Elementary
School effective July 1. Prior to that, she served as principal of William A. Diggs Elementary School.
Taylor said her transition to the new school has been relatively smooth.
“Trying to pack up 10 years worth of things, that was probably the hardest thing, the packing. As far as acclimating with the school, that’s been very, very smooth.”
Taylor said she has been working to get to know the community served by Berry. Berry is the largest elementary school in the county, over 800 students, all of whom qualify for bus transportation. The school held a meet-and-greet with the new principal Aug. 24.
She said she has also been getting to know the new members of her school community.
“I met with a lot of the stakeholders, the PTO president, my financial secretary, the building service staff, others, to try to get the lay of the land,” Taylor said.
She has also instituted new arrival procedures, which she said she hopes will help smooth over the process of getting students to and from school.
“I feel that in dealing with large numbers, having more entries into the building makes things smoother, rather than all coming in through one door,” Taylor said.
The first-day focus Taylor said, is on making sure that all students get home safely.
“What happens is, the parents are excited, and they will bring their kids to school, because they want to get those first day of school pictures, videos, things of that nature … and then they’ll want them to go home using their regular mode of transportation. It does cause a safety concern because those students may not be familiar with their bus, their bus driver, or their bus stop, especially our kindergartners and first graders,” Taylor said. “So we’re going to spend the entire day making sure everyone knows how they’re getting home.”
Taylor said the theme of school for the new year is that this is going to be a “magical year”.
“I chose that because, with having new staff and new leadership, there are going to be changes, but changes can be good, and these changes will be good,” Taylor said.
Outside the school, parents and students milled about waiting for the bell to ring, snapping photos or straightening clothing and backpacks.
Celena Klasing accompanied both her daughters, second grader Santana Klasing and kindergartner Jordan Klasing, on their first day at Berry, the family having recently moved to Waldorf from North Carolina, Klasing said.
“I’m very excited, to get them out of my face,” Klasing said laughing. “It’s been a long summer.”
Santana said she was looking forward to her new school, and that she was particularly looking forward to reading in school, her favorite books being Dr. Seuss. “I feel pretty good,” Santana said about her first day.
Janet Johnson began her day by dropping her son off at Mattawoman Middle School before bringing her daughter to adjacent Berry, which she said was very convenient.
“At the end of the day, I pick him up, then come over here and pick her up,” Johnson said.
Katrina Robinson was waiting with her daughter Addison for the bell to ring.
“I’m a little nervous, but excited. She’s excited, so I’m excited,” Robinson said.
Addison said her favorite parts of school were, “learning and art.”
Kindergartner Shawn Kersh at first said he wasn’t nervous, then added, “Well, just a little.”
Asked what he was most looking forward to, Shawn said, “to be a kindergartner.”
“It’s great seeing the kids going back to school, getting an education, growing up faster than we can catch, but it’s always a good thing,” said his mom, Janell Kersh.
Berry Elementary School first grader Addison Robinson talks with her mother Katrina just before the start of the first day of school Monday morning.