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A dress rehearsal
Rising sixth-graders get a peek at their future

COVINGTON - Although school doesn't start again for about two weeks, some future middle school students took their seats in the classrooms this week.

Most of the Newton County middle schools are holding day camps this week to help some of the rising sixth-grade students become more acclimated with their new environment.

"They are usually pretty nervous and excited at the same time," said Denna Alston, a school counselor at Veterans Memorial Middle School.

She said attending an orientation camp helps calm the nerves of some students - and parents.

"Sometimes they hear all of these things about what eighth-graders are going to do to them, but then they get here and realize that it's not as bad as they thought," she said. "We try to make it fun for them the first couple of weeks, and then they get settled in and are OK."

During the camps, several of the sixth-grade teachers and school administrators explained the dress code, connections classes, check-in and check-out procedures and other school rules.

"The best thing that you can do is read the handbook," Michael Bigby, a sixth-grade science teacher at Veterans, told a group of students Tuesday morning. "If you do what you are supposed to do, be where you are supposed to be and leave it alone if it's not yours, then you won't have any problems."

Students and parents also took a tour of the building and had a chance to ask questions to teachers, the school nurse and other school staff. Students also had a chance to meet with their teachers in small groups to discuss classroom procedures, study habits and lockers.

Even if students still have apprehensions after the school year begins, Alston said teachers and counselors will be there to help them through this big transition period.

"If you find that your student is struggling - and that happens in the sixth grade - just give (the school) a call," Alston told parents.

Seventh- and eighth-grade peer helpers and peer mentors also are available for incoming students at some of the schools.

"My advice to them is to enjoy their three years," said Bret Dunn, a rising ninth-grader at Alcovy High School who helped with the camp at Veterans. "It went by really fast for me. Now I look back and realize how much I did enjoy it. I had a lot of fun."

After the day at Veterans was over, some of the students felt more at ease with the next phase of their lives.

"I had a great time," student Jasmine Thomas said. "I know I'm going to have a good life next year and make new friends. I'm excited about going to school and being a good student."