August 8, 2008

First Day Mostly Calm — But Traffic Tie-Up Causes Long Waits

By Jimmie Covington

It was a beginning for some and a return for others as classes opened Thursday for the new school year in DeSoto County Schools.

Some kindergartners cried as their parents left them in classrooms.

But teachers, principals and others comforted the youngsters and soon had them involved in activities.

When final enrollment figures are tallied in about a month, the school district is expected to have more than 30,000 students in its 35 schools, which will likely make it the largest district in the state, education Supt. Milton Kuykendall said.

As for the county's two major private schools, classes began Wednesday at Sacred Heart and will start Monday at SBEC.

With the exception of a major traffic tie-up involving school buses and hundreds of parents trying to drop off their children at Southaven High School and Southaven Middle School, which are located beside each other on Rasco Road, things appeared to go smoothly across the district's public schools Thursday.

Some middle school parents said it took from an hour to an hour and a half to drop off their children.

Southaven Asst. Police Chief Steve Pirtle said the situation is being monitored closely and some changes in traffic patterns may be recommended by early next week.

He said parents took Thursday's tie-up in stride and there were no reports of frustrations boiling over into incidents.

At Greenbrook Elementary School in Southaven, Thursday was both a beginning and a return for new teacher Jenna Parker, 22.

Parker attended Greenbrook for kindergarten through grade 5.

"I've come home," she said as she looked out over her second- grade class.

The youngsters, whom she called "precious angels," were sitting quietly waiting for the day's activities to begin.

From Greenbrook, Parker went on to Southaven Middle School as a student, Southaven High, Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi, where she received her teaching degree.

"I am excited," she said. "It is going to be a good year."

She also has family links with Greenbrook. Parker's older sister, Robin Long, taught fourth grade there before grades 3-5 were shifted this year to Southaven Intermediate.

And when Parker was in kindergarten at Greenbrook, her mother, Colleen Long, was a kindergarten teacher there. Long is now assistant principal at Southaven Elementary School.

Dad in the family is Southaven Police Chief Tom Long.

Among Parker's students on Thursday, Carrie Beth McPherson, 7, said she was looking forward to reading. Cameron Watson, 7, said he was looking forward to math and "going to Disney World" during spring break.

Jamie Tidwell was about an hour late in getting her son, Jackson Tidwell, 6, to his first-grade class at Greenbrook. She had decided to go to Southaven Middle first to drop of her daughter, Jordan, 11, and got caught in the tie-up.

"We have been in traffic for more than an hour," she said. She said she and the youngsters couldn't do anything else while they waited in traffic so they talked and laughed.

Tidwell said she and Jackson were excited that school had started.

Greenbrook principal Patricia Moore said the shift of grades 3-5 to the new intermediate school allowed the assistant principals, guidance counselors, speech pathologists, gifted teachers and special education teachers proper space to work in.

"We miss our babies down the road (at Southaven Intermediate) but it is so nice to have the room," she said.

Grades 3-5 at Hope Sullivan Elementary also were transferred to the new intermediate school, which is in the former Southaven Middle building at 175 Rasco Road.

Parents on Patrol volunteers, who came together in the 2006-07 school year to enhance security and safety at Greenbrook, were on duty as the school school year started.

David Owens, a founder of the group, said it has expanded to also serve the intermediate school.

At Southaven Intermediate, Principal Susan Williams said things were going well on the first day.

"I think it has been a really smooth beginning for every student here," said Williams, formerly an assistant principal at DeSoto Central Elementary.

"We are excited about Southaven Intermediate School and bringing (students from) both of those schools (Greenbrook and Sullivan) together to make an impact on our community."

Originally published by Jimmie Covington / [email protected] .

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