CCPS has smooth start to school year

Times-Record - - Front Page - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

DENTON — Caro­line County Pub­lic Schools got the 2017-18 school year started on the right foot, of­fi­cials re­ported later that evening at the Caro­line County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion’s meet­ing, Tues­day, Sept. 5.

“Over­all, it was very smooth,” said Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Pa­tri­cia Sae­lens, who vis­ited six of the sys­tem’s 10 schools on the first day, with plans to visit the re­main­ing four on the sec­ond day. “There were lots of smil­ing faces, though some (stu­dents) looked a lit­tle on the sleepy side try­ing to come off sum­mer break.”

Board of Ed­u­ca­tion Vice Pres­i­dent Tol­bert Rowe said he wit­nessed one re­luc­tant kinder­garten stu­dent who pre­ferred cling­ing to a pole out­side his ele­men­tary school to at­tend­ing class, but other than that, most of the stu­dents and staff hit the ground run­ning.

“Af­ter about the first half-hour in any build­ing to­day, it looked like any day (of the school year),” Rowe said.

Board mem­ber Kathy Dill said she vis­ited two ele­men­tary schools and a mid­dle school on open­ing day, and agreed the stu­dents looked ready to go.

“They said, ‘Bye Mom, bye Dad, get out of here — I got this,’” Dill said.

Dr. Derek Sim­mons, di­rec­tor of stu­dent ser­vices, said 5,311 stu­dents showed up to school in Caro­line County for the first day, of 5,533 en­rolled, a 96 per­cent at­ten­dance rate.

Sim­mons said that was 100 more stu­dents who at­tended the first day of school than last year. The school sys­tem will do two more counts, one on the 10th day of school, and an of­fi­cial one Sept. 30.

In the mean­time, pupil ser vice em­ploy­ees will fol­low up on the 222 en­rolled stu­dents who did not come to school the first day, Sim­mons said.

Some may have moved out of the ju­ris­dic­tion and en­rolled else­where, Sae­lens said, while oth­ers may have been the vic­tim of “yel­low bus syn­drome,” in which their guardians do not re­al­ize school started un­til they see the buses run­ning.

“It sounds im­pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially now, with so­cial me­dia, but it does hap­pen,” Sae­lens said.

Sim­mons said one high school al­ready had a home visit sched­uled the next day for a stu­dent who sim­ply re­fused to at­tend the first day. He said the school sends on home vis­its a teacher or guid­ance coun­selor to whom the stu­dent feels con­nected.

“We’ve heard from stu­dents who grad­u­ally dropped out that they just didn’t feel like any­one cared,” Sim­mons said, adding the pupil ser­vices team is work­ing on more strate­gies to break tru­ancy pat­terns in younger stu­dents be­fore they reach high school.

As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent for Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser vices Mil­ton Nagel said the school sys­tem hired 54 new teach­ers over the sum­mer. Un­til a late res­ig­na­tion a week be­fore the first day of school, the class­room po­si­tions were fully-staffed, he said.

Nagel said the school sys­tem will fill that open po­si­tion, and is still look­ing for two school psy­chol­o­gists.

The school sys­tem also hired 26 new sup­port ser­vices staff mem­bers, he said, and is cur­rently pro­cess­ing more hires.

A new vis­i­tor man­age­ment sys­tem has been in­stalled in all 10 schools, Nagel said, re­quir­ing all visi­tors to present a valid state-is­sued driver’s li­cense or ID card, which will be scanned and checked in na­tional and lo­cal data­bases to iden­tify any­one who is not al­lowed inside schools.

Once en­try is ap­proved, the sys­tem will is­sue a badge with the vis­i­tor’s name, date and the pur­pose, Nagel said, which must be re­turned to the of­fice be­fore the vis­i­tor leaves to be logged out of the sys­tem.

PHOTOS BY DUSTIN HOLT

Preston Ele­men­tary kinder­gartener Juli­ette Schriefer ready for her first day of school Tues­day, Sept. 5.

Preston Ele­men­tary kinder­garten­ers Wil­liam War­nick, left, and Freddy No­vak ready for their first day of school Tues­day, Sept. 5.

Kyleigh Walker stands with her mom Pamela be­fore her first day of kinder­garten at Preston Ele­men­tary Tues­day, Sept. 5.

Jackson Zim­beroff, left, and Au­tumn De­lano stand wait to start their first day of kinder­garten at Preston Ele­men­tary Tues­day, Sept. 5.

PHOTOS BY DUSTIN HOLT

Cal­lie Boyd waits to en­ter the school at her first day at Preston Ele­men­tary Tues­day, Sept. 5.

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