School year begins with few glitches

COVINGTON - Except for a few normal first-day issues, the first school day for most Newton County School System students and parents went as planned.

With a new elementary school opening and more than 400 students expected to transfer from three schools as a result of state test results, system officials expected to deal with some problems on top of the common ones Friday.

"We always experience some problems on the first day of school, especially with transportation," said Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for NCSS, in an e-mail. "Kids miss the bus, get on the wrong bus and so forth. It usually takes a few days to get all the kinks ironed out."

She said some school buses also might have been off schedule on Friday, which is normal.

With a projected enrollment of 19,200 students in its 21 schools this year, she said school system employees don't know exactly how many students actually will ride the school bus, especially the first day of school.

"It is not uncommon for buses to run late on the first day of school because drivers may pick students up who are waiting if they know the student's normal bus has already passed," she said. "We try not to leave any child waiting for the bus. If a child is at the incorrect stop, we also pick them up, so buses move much slower on the first day. It is an adjustment period, as it is every year."

She also said an accident on Ga. Highway 36 near Alcovy High School could have slowed down traffic and buses Friday morning.

At the new South Salem Elementary School, parents reported students being late to class or missing the first day completely after the school that students attended the previous year did not transfer some students' records over by Friday.

Viniard did not comment as to how many students were affected by the records not being transferred, but she said Friday afternoon that every student who is assigned to the South Salem Elementary school zone has been assigned a class.

"The principal and staff remained at the school until 10 p.m. (Thursday) night receiving information and records so that students could be assigned classes," she said.

District 2 school board member and Vice Chairman Rickie Corley said he visited the school during open house Thursday and learned that some students out of the school zone were trying to attend the school. School officials sent letters home to appropriate parents by the end of the last school year notifying them that their students would be transferred to the new school.

Corley said he wasn't sure why the school did not receive the records by the first day of school, but he contacted NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley about any issues he heard about; he said Whatley assured him the problems would be resolved by Monday or as soon as possible.

"We don't want any kids to miss school," Corley said. "There are going to be some difficulties on the first day. That's one reason why we have the first day (of school) on Friday, so we can start the new week off fresh."

Viniard also said "some" students missed their buses at Veterans Memorial Middle School on Friday afternoon.

"When it was realized they did not get on the bus, the driver was contacted and returned to the school to pick up the remaining students," she said.

Viniard would not comment as to how many students were left at the school or for how long.

"All issues, however bad they are, we will get them resolved," Corley said.

Viniard said any parent who has a concern or complaint with the school should contact the school or the school system.

"We have no way of fixing a problem if we aren't aware of the situation," she said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.