Back to the books

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

On Tuesday morning, Cody Rountree stared up and down the huge halls and cafeteria of Lakeland High School. He looked at the blue and white lockers and doors. He saw hundreds of students milling about, changing classes and getting ready for lunch.

That required a great deal of looking up – after finishing last year as the oldest class at Forest Glen Middle School, the freshman Cavalier is once again a new kid in town.

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&uot;The school’s big, and I kept getting lost,&uot; said Rountree, midway through his first day of high school. &uot;I’ve never been here before. I’ll get used to it, but the work will be harder.&uot;

While Rountree was preparing to start his high school career, seniors like Lauren Bostic were at the beginning of the end of theirs.

&uot;It’s kind of bittersweet,&uot; Bostic said. &uot;I’m happy it’s my senior year, but I’m sad that I’ll be leaving all my friends. It doesn’t feel different, except that a lot of my older friends are gone now.&uot;

Rountree was one of 13,243 students to start their school Tuesday, up from 12,338 at last year’s start. Public school spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw estimated that roughly 600 more might be enrolled by the end of the first 10 days.

Over at Nansemond Parkway Elementary, the first day of school was an enjoyable one for the young, such as new fifth-grader Kayla Bryant, and even younger, like wide-eyed and very eager new kindergartener Lauren Manley.

&uot;My teacher’s really nice,&uot; Lauren said about her teacher Crystal Hunt, &uot;because my mom knew Mrs. Hunt, so my mom was happy and I was really happy when I saw her name. When I saw it, I went and put a heart by her name.&uot;

Kayla, in Debra Harris’s fifth- grade class, was much more veteran about the whole &uot;first day of school&uot; thing than was Lauren.

&uot;I think it’s fun, so far,&uot; she said. &uot;My teacher’s nice, the students are nice, and it’s just fun to be in fifth grade.&uot;

So far in the first day of Harris’ class, students had gotten to know classroom rules, learned how to speak and get along in class, and as noon approached, started off Social Studies.

About the passing of summer break, Kayla said she would miss, &uot;going back to vacation with my family, and I miss staying up late and watching TV.&uot;

The best part of all the new experiences kindergarten excitedly brings – Lauren, seemingly all in one breath, said, &uot;going outside and playing games, like on the swings and slides, and this is my first day, and I’m just happy with my teacher, and class, and friends.&uot;

While their students adjusted to the lifestyle switch, principals Katrina Bowers and Daniel O’Leary kept things running at the front office.

&uot;It was pretty busy here this morning,&uot; said Bowers, in charge of Mount Zion Elementary School. &uot;But things settled down by around 9:45 or so. Things were pretty smooth for the most part.&uot;

O’Leary, who has watched Forest Glen receive SOL accreditation since the tests were first administered, said he hoped his students would raise their scores this year.

&uot;We improved on every test this year,&uot; he said, &uot;and we want scores of 85 or higher on every test this year. It’s all about expectations. We had a 93 in history last year, and we want to improve on that.&uot;

For the first time ever, all 12 elementary, all four middle, and all three high schools met full accreditation last year.

Once the usual first-day routine was behind them, Shannon Tompkins’ fourth-grade class at Mount Zion got right to work. Armed with pencils and paper, students carefully drew the cars they believed most matched their personalities.

The lure of returning to the classroom was stronger for some students than others. Already, some were mourning the loss of days when video games, playing with friends and riding bikes took top priority

&uot;School means I have to do homework,&uot; said Richard Walker, 11. &uot;That takes up my time when I should be riding my dirt bike.&uot;

But Raheem Vaughan said the summer was as little too long for him.

&uot;I’m glad to be back to school,&uot; he said. &uot;I was bored all summer.&uot;

Joshua Boyer, 10, who transferred to Mount Zion from Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, said he had been a little nervous about the change.

&uot;It’s weird, a bit scary coming to a new school,&uot; he said. &uot;I would have liked to have had another day off.&uot;

At Northern Shores Elementary, with the end of the first day drawing near around 2:15 in the afternoon, third-graders Ryan Hathaway and Deanna Wilkins were all too ready to be distracted from the last assignment or two of the day.

Ryan was much more interested and willing to talk about summer vacation, and the start of his Pop Warner football season. About the new school year, he said, &uot;Well, it’s going all right. It’s boring because you have to sit there and go over rules.&uot;

Classmate Deanna Wilkins said about summer, &uot;I miss not having to wake up early.&uot;

About now being in third grade, &uot;It’s OK, the work is going to be different. One day down, too many to count to go.&uot;