School overtakes summer as 24,000 students return to class

Kelly Mayo Staff writer

August 24, 2013

LUMBERTON — Nate Cribb is decisively ambivalent about the end of vacation and the beginning of a new school year.

Nate, 11, who will be starting his first year at Carroll Middle School on Monday, was at an open house last week for sixth-graders. Asked if he was excited to start the new year, Nate mumbled, “Sort of.”

Nate is one of about 24,000 students who will put away their soccer balls and swimming trunks in favor of science books, pencils and notebooks as 43 schools in the Public Schools of Robeson County open for class. They will be greeted by 1,693 teachers and 416 teacher assistants.

Tasha Oxendine, Public Relations officer for the Public Schools of Robeson County, said teachers and bus drivers attended orientation sessions on Wednesday to welcome them back and prepare for a new year.

Teachers across the county have spent the last weeks of summer preparing their classrooms and lesson plans for incoming students, but one school had extra prep work to do after a school board decision shifted more students its way.

Teachers at Carroll Middle School in Lumberton will welcome 500 new students on Monday, including 200 fourth-graders from Tanglewood and Rowland-Norment elementary schools. The county Board of Education decided in June to move fourth-graders from the schools to Carroll. The decision was made because of crowding at Tanglewood that critics of the transfer say is the result of out-of-district students being granted transfers.

Carroll Middle Principal Melinda Sellers said a section of the school formerly reserved for enrichment classes became the fourth-grade wing, and that fourth-grade students recently had an orientation session during which they toured the school.

“We’ll have to learn names and faces a lot faster,” Sellers said.

Sellers said Carroll Middle students will have assemblies for each grade level during the first week to outline rules and expectations. The school will also continue the system-wide Positive Behavior Intervention Support program, which rewards good behavior, and holds a skate party in September.

“We try to do things that students will enjoy” and that are age-appropriate for new fourth-graders, Sellers said.

Sellers said Carroll has “hardworking fourth-grade teachers” who arrived from county schools over the summer.

One of those teachers is Maggie Bristol, who taught at Rowland-Norment for seven years and is the fourth-grade chair at Carroll. She said she and Barbara Huggins, another former Rowland-Norment teacher, have distributed fourth-grade materials sent from Tanglewood and their former school to their new co-workers to prepare them for their new students.

“I’m looking forward to the new opportunity,” she said. “I think we’re going to have a really great year.”

Sally Pennington, who has taught in South Carolina and at Carroll and Littlefield middle schools, said she “came out of semi-retirement” for her 24th year of teaching.

“I am so happy to be back,” she said. “This is such a great group of people. I know parents are concerned about fourth-graders moving out here, but I’m telling you, it won’t take them a week and they’ll be thrilled.”

Fourth-grade teachers are not the only ones excited for a new year. Anthony Spallino, who teaches sixth-grade math, said he and his co-workers used the social networking site Pinterest to get inspiration for student engagement in their classes.

“We’ve just been talking about new activities and new procedures, just trading ideas,” he said. “It’s always exciting because we get a new group every year, new potential every year. What’s this group going to be like? What can we do with them?”

During the sixth-grade open house, Kameron Rushing, 11, showed more enthusiasm about the new school year than did Nate Cribb. What is he most excited about?

“Being in band class.”

Teachers and students aren’t the only ones having to prepare.

According to Raymond Cummings, director of Transportation for the school system, there are about 270 buses that will be going out each day to take students to and from schools, covering 15,000 miles a day.

The drivers of those buses last week received blood-borne pathogen training and updates on safety regulations.

“We do this every year … to reiterate school bus policies and reinforce safety,” Cummings said.