First class trip: Limestone and Morgan school systems start new academic year

·4 min read

Aug. 9—Chirping birds and a shining sun at Priceville Elementary on Monday matched the mood of parents who said they felt more comfortable about declining COVID threats and increasing attention to school security as they brought children for their first day of kindergarten.

Leah Halbrooks dropped her 7-year-old son Jeremiah off for him to start third grade and then said her goodbyes to her daughter Sadie, who began kindergarten. Halbrooks said she experienced the same "first-day jitters" that she felt when Jeremiah started school three years ago.

"It's different with every child, but it still makes me a little nervous," Halbrooks said.

Halbrooks said the staff at Priceville Elementary makes sure they are always aware of any activity occurring on school grounds, and she was also glad to see a school resource officer monitoring the parking lot and keeping an eye on individuals going through the school doors.

"They're always good at keeping doors locked and I really appreciate that," Halbrooks said. "It gives parents comfort and peace knowing our kids are safe and well taken care of."

Halbrooks said after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, she feels it is safe now for her children to return to in-person instruction. One of her goals this year, she said, is to work with Jeremiah in helping him to read more proficiently and get him "where they want him to be."

"The school has several tutoring opportunities and a lot of resources, where if I need to get him some help, those are always there," Halbrooks said.

Jessica Clark was also at Priceville Elementary dropping her daughter Hope off for her first day of kindergarten. She said she wants Hope to make some new friends this year.

"I know God has got her and I know she's going to do fine," Clark said.

Clark said she is concerned about school security this year and wishes the district would place more police officers at schools.

"I read on Facebook where cops surround banks and I think they should be at the schools because we love our babies more than we do our money, or we should," Clark said.

Principal Daniel Gullion is welcoming the new year with a sense of nostalgia.

"I don't like the new norm (COVID interruptions of in-person instruction). I want to go back to the old norm; the way things used to be," Gullion said. "There's a lot of excitement here and we're ready to get back in the swing of things."

He said as of Monday, enrollment at Priceville Elementary was at 670 students for pre-K through fourth grade. He believes the school year will end with around 700 students enrolled.

"We're a little lower than last year; however, I think we've picked up 40 kids this week," Gullion said.

Morgan County Schools spokesman Jeremy Childers said Monday was a good day districtwide and the school system is glad to have students back in the classroom and "getting back to a normal schedule."

Limestone County

Limestone County schools also started back Monday and parents and students walked into the new entrance at Tanner Elementary that was completed in May.

"This is the first year that we did not route transportation to the front of the school, the high school, so we are extremely excited to have our entrance open so that we can reroute our parents to the elementary school," Principal Sylvia Haslam said.

She said the first day back to school was busy but had been "an awesome day overall."

New administrative suites, a parent conference area, and reception area were also completed in the summer.

Haslam said parents and teachers are thankful to begin the school year in the classrooms and not on a computer screen.

"A lot of parents are making the transition from home-schooling to face-to-face schooling, so I think they're very excited about that," Haslam said.

Haslam said enrollment was at 302 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade and 18 students in pre-K. That's a decline from last year's enrollment of 340 students in all grades not including pre-K, but she said students were still enrolling. or 256-340-2438.