Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- Friday was an emotional day for many Newton County students and their parents.

Hundreds of prekindergartners and kindergartners geared up for their first day of school, while many of their parents cried about their little ones growing up so fast. And proud sixth-graders and ninth-graders entered their new school buildings, where they will doubtlessly have many new experiences.

Many 12th-graders were excited that they were beginning their senior year of high school and could see their friends again.

And some others were terrified that they hadn't finished their summer reading yet and dreaded returning to the packed, locker-filled hallways and fighting for a good spot in line in the lunch room.

About 20,000 students started the 2010-11 school year in Newton County School System's 24 facilities on Friday, joining half a dozen other school systems in north Georgia that also ended their summers on Friday. Several other systems around the state began the school year even earlier. On Aug. 3, more than 2,500 NCSS employees began preparing for the new school year.

The new superintendent of NCSS Gary Mathews, and Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent of Operations at NCSS, took the time away from their daily duties to visit Heard-Mixon Elementary, Alcovy High, Oak Hill Elementary, Livingston Elementary and Liberty Middle of the first day of school.

"While visiting schools (Friday) morning, it was evident that the students and teachers were excited to be back," Mathews said on Friday afternoon. "We did have some hiccups -- bus issues, schedule issues -- but these are expected on the first day of school and are worked out within the first few days."

No new facilities opened in the Newton County School System this year, but there are several changes in store. Last year, Clements Theme School housed students in fourth through eighth grades and focused on parent involved, but this year, it reverted back to a regular middle school due to overcrowding at the other middle schools.

Also, the middle and high schools have been rezoned to relieve some overcrowding.

Additionally, construction will continue throughout the school year at Newton High School to build the Newton College & Career Academy, the county's first. Crews also are building a new elementary school on Airport Road near Ga. Highway 142 this year.

This school year, students will get extended breaks over Thanksgiving, at the end of December, in mid-February and at the beginning of April, as well as smaller breaks spread throughout the school year. The school year ends on Thursday, May 26, 2011, for students.