08/25/10 — Back to class

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Back to class

By Phyllis Moore, Catharin Shepard and Laura Collins
Published in News on August 25, 2010 1:46 PM

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Faith Absalao, left, a kindergartner in Mindy Lane's class at Northwest Elementary School, gets a goodbye kiss from her mom, Monica, this morning.

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Christian Cash, a third-grade student at Meadow Lane Elementary School, concentrates this morning as he fills out his first paper of the new school year.

Twenty years after Northwest Elementary School first opened its doors -- and Mindy Lane walked through them as a kindergarten student -- she marked her first day as a kindergarten teacher there.

Early this morning, on the first day of school for Wayne County Public School students, she showed a photograph taken on her own first day as a 5-year-old, which she planned, later, to show her new students.

"I can tell them, 'Look, I know exactly what it's like,'" she said. "I think I cried every single day the first week."

While students around the county returned to classes today, kindergartners operate on a staggered schedule the first three days.

Ms. Lane's class of 24, for example, will be divided up into groups of eight each day.

Today's group was all girls.

Her plan at the outset, she said, was to put the children at ease.

"We'll mainly get to know each other," Ms. Lane said. "They're going to color, go over the rules -- expectations, I don't like to call them rules -- do a tour of the school."

She had also anticipated how difficult it is for parents to say good-bye as school starts, handing out a packet of tissues to each along with a poem on "The First Day."

Monica Absalao seemed to be handling the experience pretty well as she patiently waited for the bell to ring, signaling the start of the school day. Maybe because she's had a little practice. In addition to her daughter, Faith, who is a student in Ms. Lane's room, her son is a 10th grader at Charles B. Aycock High School.

"I want to cry," Ms. Absalao admitted as she waited for her daughter's class to begin.

Faith, however, had no such misgivings.

"We have been up since 5:30 this morning," her mother said. "At 6, she was like, 'Let's go, let's go.'"

The early start might have been a bit much.

"I'm sleepy," Faith said as children and parents arrived on campus.

"Now she's sleepy," Ms. Absaloa said. "But she's all excited. She wanted to learn."

Pontrice Horn's daughter, Ashantaaliyah, who will be one of Faith's classmates, was also showing signs of being ready to start the new phase in her life.

"She didn't even want me to walk her in," Ms. Horn said. "She got up about 5 o'clock this morning. Soon as she got dressed, she was ready to come to school."

Another classmate, Hannah Hoots, was being dropped off by her parents, Katherine and Bryant Hoots, along with 18-month-old brother, Hunter.

"I'm nervous, too," her father reassured her before entering the classroom. "But (Ms. Lane) will tell you everything you need to know."

Lindsey Abbott had already dropped off her second-grader before depositing daughter, Alison, in Ms. Lane's room.

"This isn't my first, but it's just as hard," Ms. Abbott said. "My husband just deployed this weekend so it was really hard. It was exciting -- picking out clothes, getting ready -- but it was rough not having Dad here."

Outside the school, Paul Parrish snapped several pictures of his children -- Josh, a fifth-grader, and Katie, who is in the second grade. Standing off to the side was wife, Melanie, who was having a harder time of it, Parrish said.

"Every year, I'm crying," Mrs. Parrish said, wiping her eyes. "I just miss my babies when they're not at home. When you stay home and they're in school, it's a long eight hours."

Katie was more pragmatic.

"It's gonna be another long year, " she said as she entered the school building.

Victoria Lane, 10, accompanied by her mom, Becky Lane, said she is looking forward to the fifth grade.

"I'm excited but kind of nervous at the same time because every year I get like this," Victoria said.

In her hand, she carried a goodie bag she had made for her teacher.

It contained an oatmeal pie and some candies, along with a handwritten note that read, "I'm very happy that I'm in your class."

At Brogden Primary this morning, Rebecca Davis lugged two heavy backpacks for her daughters, Avery Oliver, 6, and Karis Oliver, 8, as they looked for the cafeteria.

"They're a little too heavy for them to carry. ... Notebooks, loose-leaf paper, all the folders they've got to have, everything they're going to need this year," she said, shifting the "Hannah Montana" and "Wizards of Waverly Place" packs on her shoulders. Her daughters' hands were filled with lunch boxes, tissues and other supplies, and they were both excited about being back.

"I'm feeling pretty good about it, it's going to be a good day," Karis, a third grader, said.

Malena Hall talked to her son, Zachary, as she held him on her lap while waiting for the first bell to ring. Zachary snuggled closer for one last hug, not quite sure he wanted his mom to leave yet. Mrs. Hall was excited, but nervous for her son's first day of kindergarten, she said.

"He's very shy," she said.

Kindergartner Amia Jones also had a few second thoughts about starting school, burrowing her head in her mother, Jessica Lovelace's midsection as they awaited the morning announcements being made by principal Youlonda Wynn.

"She got up at 6 a.m. this morning, she was ready to go. She couldn't stand waiting," Mrs. Lovelace said.

The 6-year-old hugged her mother tightly, and wasn't planning on letting go of her collection of glow-in-the-dark Silly Bandz wrapped around her wrist, either.

"I'm going to keep them," she insisted.

First-grader Kayla Downing, 6, gave her baby sister, Lauren, a kiss as she and her mother, Brenda Downing, said good-bye. After a summer at home, she said would miss her 1-year old sister, but she was ready to start school.

"We got school supplies," she said, holding up two large plastic bags. "I'm going to practice working hard so I can stay in first grade."

At Southern Wayn High School, ninth-graders were getting a taste of their first day in high school.

Monica Medina stopped short of the entrance door when she heard a friend's voice, and whirled around to give the new arrival a welcoming hug.

"We're freshmen!" she exclaimed.

Reconnecting with her middle school friends was one of her goals for the first day, but Monica said she was also looking forward to meeting new people, even if the bigger campus was a little intimidating.

"I think I'm gonna get lost," she said.

Chase Kearney was cool and collected as he entered the school. The Freshmen Focus peer mentor program at Southern Wayne helped him prepare for the important first year in high school, and he wasn't worried, he said.

"I'm ready for it," Kearney said.

While some high schoolers might have been embarrassed to have a parent tag along on the first day, Dequelia Atkin-son, a sophomore who transferred this year, said she was glad to have her mother, Tonya Atkinson, on hand to fill out paperwork.

"All I'm worried about is graduating," she said.

Meanwhile, at Eastern Wayne Elementary School 5-year-old Nasir Nick stood in the principal's office, clinging to a blue and green naptime mat. His first day of kindergarten was just minutes away and his mother, LaTisha Nick, admitted she was somewhat nervous.

"I just don't know how he's going to react," she said. "But we've been working on writing his name and tying his shoes. He's not quite there with the shoes yet, but he can write his first and last name."

Just outside the building, a somber Dyshaun Worsley arrived for his first day of third grade.

"I feel OK," was all he was willing to say.

"I think he's still sleeping," said father, Rondray Gooding, who was much more excited.

"I love it," he said. "I'm excited for him to get in there. I want my child to learn."

At Meadow Lane Elemen-tary, one mother was overheard telling her son which supplies to give to his teacher and which to keep.

"No, the paper towels are for your teacher," she said. "The supplies in your book bag are for you."

Soon after the start of the school day, teacher-led single-file lines were already snaking their way through the halls and cafeteria.

"You see this bird?" one teacher said about a pelican that was painted on the wall. "Every time you see this bird, turn here, you know your classroom is down here."

In Kristen Stuber's third-grade class, her students were already working on a crossword puzzle by 8:30 a.m. as she explained how things work in her classroom.

"This cup here says 'pencils' and this one says 'needs sharpened.' If you have a pencil that needs to be sharpened, put it in this cup and take a sharpened one out of the pencil cup," she said.

Outside on the pathway, as Zavion Hardy made his way to class, he lamented the end of summer.

"I wish summer wasn't over," he said, adding, "But I'm excited about playing outside today."

His mother, Redarda Artis, had a different take on the situation.

"I was ready for him to come back," she joked. "I needed a break."