"Overall it was a tremendous day," said Monett Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann. "I visited all the campuses. Already I saw learning and a lot of smiling faces."
Construction plans for the new canopy from the high school to the Southwest Area Career Center across the parking lot did not get finished by opening day as hoped. With rain on the second day, the canopy would have been welcomed.
Jungmann said construction crews had the steel in place and have been stacking bricks around the pillars. Then the canopy will be painted to match the existing entrance into the high school, all of which will take a couple more weeks, he said.
Linkage between the Career Center and the high school is not as critical at this point because the four new classrooms being added on the west wing of the Career Center are not due to go into use until mid-year. Three classes will be transitioning but there is no urgency for space, said the superintendent.
Changes made to campuses over the summer were duly noted by returning students. Jungmann recalled hearing a student comment, "Wow! This is different," in discovering the remodeling done on the original bathrooms at Central Park Elementary over the summer.
Prior to school starting, Melody Paige, wearing her new hat as technology integration specialist, provided training for 101 teachers and has scheduled three workshops before and after school to add to faculty skill levels.
"I've had a ton of positive comments from staff about the training," Jungmann said. "Administrators said they saw more technology used on the first day than ever before. It's all about putting it in their hands."
The first day ended with a nervous hour for one family whose child got off the bus at the wrong stop. A search was mounted, and the student was found a half-hour later at a friend's house.
"When you transport 1,100 kids to and from school, this kind of thing happens across the country," Jungmann said. "That doesn't mean we take it lightly. We will continue to work to make it better."
First day numbers put total attendance at 2,098, up 56 from the first day last year. Jungmann noted the kindergarten class, a frequent indicator of future class sizes, was the smallest in several years.
"That's something we'll keep an eye on," Jungmann said, "and see if it's a trend or a one-year occurrence. The rest of the district's numbers continue to go up. That's good for our school. Overall, we're very excited to kick off the new school year."
Like Monett, students returning to the Verona schools could see facility improvements in progress. Outside the school building a pavilion with a new basketball court is being erected, thanks to the Verona Lions Club.
Elementary students took particular note of the new $40,000 playground under construction. American Dehydrated Foods is paying half the projected cost. A major discount by Miracle Recreation Equipment in Monett has also made the undertaking possible. Work is expected to be finished in another week.
Reports reaching Superintendent Bill Sweet indicated activity went smoothly on the first day.
Class sizes were sizing up to be quite consistent in Verona, with a total of 395 students enrolled on the first day of classes, compared to 395 last year. Four of the six classes in the junior high and high school levels number between 22 and 27. Only one elementary class is that small and most number in the mid-30s.
According to a spokesperson for Sweet, there were some tears seen by parents on the first day. The running of the school itself went well, the spokesperson added.
In Purdy, 651 students walked through school doors on the first day of class. Counting pre-school, the number rose to 683.
"Everything went great," said Superintendent Jerry Lingo. "We seem to be holding our own. I think we'll get to 691, where we ended last year, and we'll be fine.
"Everyone seems to have gotten on the right bus and everything. In the evening, one child was misplaced for a bit, but we got that straightened out," Lingo said. "With as many children as we transport every day, that was really good."
Last year the big transition had been moving buses to the west side of the campus to load and unload by the new main entrances into the elementary and high schools. This year, with awnings in place in the loading areas, children moved easily on the west side despite changing weather patterns, offering the smooth start everyone wanted.
The big change for the district this year was a fully paved and marked parking lot. Lingo said due to a fully paved and marked parking lot, those picking up children in the afternoon were in and out in five minutes.
The first day of school was a little more hectic than expected at Pierce City on Thursday. Earlier in the week a construction crew installing fiber optics for Morenet into the high school cut the telephone and internet lines to Central Elementary. Cell phones became the main line of communication for the elementary campus until phones were restored at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
Superintendent Russ Moreland said having upgraded switches on the district's computer server over the summer, the problem prompted a fiber upgrade between the high school and the elementary campus. Moreland is hopeful the improvements will be enough for the next few years.
The lack of phones made opening a bit more challenging, especially with elementary parents having typical questions about buses. Other than that, Moreland said the opening went smoothly.
In all, there were 709 students reporting to class at Pierce City, not counting pre-school, which is seven less than last year's first day student count.
"We're real close to where we were last year, in terms of numbers," Moreland said. "We weren't anticipating growth."
With the largest classes in the district at the junior and senior high school level, Moreland said the district may be looking at slight declines for the next two years.