08/25/06 — Summer vacations fade away for thousands of children

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Summer vacations fade away for thousands of children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 25, 2006 1:58 PM

Early morning alarms signaled the end of summer for school children in Wayne County Public Schools today.

Big yellow buses navigated the city and county roads, picking up youths armed with backpacks and sharpened pencils as they prepare for another year of homework and tests.

The first day of school is always hectic for parents, children and educators alike, but for the most part, officials said they got off to a good start.

"It's going great," said Alex Wingate, principal at Northwest Elementary School, where the schedule calls for school to admit students promptly at 8 a.m.

Today was a little bit slower than that, but Wingate said he was pleased with the first day performance.

"We're only bringing in one-fourth of our kindergarten students, so we have a staggered start for them the first few days. All the rest of our first through fifth, we got everybody into the building around 10 after 8, which is good for the first day."

Wingate credited his staff with doing a great job of preparing for the beginning of school. Nevertheless, overcrowding in that part of the county remains a consideration.

"We were closed as far as transfers, but our registration as of this morning, is at 941, which is up considerably from last year by 80 more," he said. "It's the same about everywhere in the northern end of the county."

The school system has worked to offset the problem, Wingate said, providing 11 mobile classrooms at Northwest alone.

"We hate to put anyone in trailers, but it's better to have them in trailers than in the hallways," he said.

At Greenwood Middle School, principal Larry Dean said the year has started out on a positive note.

"We have been extremely pleased with the way things have gone," he said. "There were a lot of cars this morning dropping students off, but it's gone very smoothly."

There's not much moping around the halls lamenting the end of summer vacation, either, Dean said.

"Students are arriving in a wonderful state of mind. I think they're glad to see each other," he said.

Raymond Smith, director of transportation for the school system, said the first day went better this year than usual.

"I have not received phone calls of missed buses or things of that nature," he said. "Most of the phone calls I have received have been for people wanting their stop changed so little junior can be closer to home."

Smith said the year is starting out with eight vacancies for bus drivers, but noted that is better than in years past.

"We have temporaries -- people who work for Wayne County Public Schools who have a school bus license -- so we have all the routes covered," he said.

In addition to a reconfiguration in the central attendance area, Smith said the district started a new type of system this year similar to what has been done previously in the city.

"In the Eastern Wayne area, we're doing a tier system like we have in the central attendance area. The buses go out and pick up the high school and middle schools, deliver them and then go back out and pick up the elementary school (students)," he said. "It's going great."

As for the typical first few days of requests for route changes, Smith asked for patience.

"We typically don't change anything on our routes for the first couple of weeks," he said. "That's to give what we have put together an opportunity to work. Then we'll make the necessary adjustments."