LUMBERTON — On Monday, approximately 24,000 students — with an excited smile, nonchalant head toss or tears for a long summer left behind — will strut, trudge or run down a hallway in one of Robeson County’s 44 public schools.
For students at Rowland Norment Elementary School’s open house on Friday, the question of whether or not they’re ready for school is unanimously answered with a simple “yeah” — and an enthusiastic nod of the head.
For parents, the answer is also a unanimous one.
Gloria McDuffie was almost as eager for school to start as her 8-year-old son Qua’Tez McCormick, who said he was ready to see his friends.
“I think every parent is ready for the summer to end,” mom said, laughing.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom,” said Amber Rabon as her 8-year-old daughter, Anna Paige Reynolds, squealed and pointed to a picture of a bird with blue feet in a book she was reading. “Do I really need to answer that question?”
The county’s 4,000 employees are excited as well — although they know they have their work cut out for them. As of Wednesday, Rowland Norment had 592 students enrolled, and more were expected by the end of Friday’s open house.
Kindergarten teacher Jessica Leonard said the best part about her job, of which she is in her second year, is seeing how much her students grow.
“They come to you so little,” she said. “Some don’t know their alphabets and some do, and you think, ‘how are they going to learn all this?’ but by the end of the year, they’re all reading. … It just blows my mind.”
“I always look forward to new students, new personalities and new challenges,” said third-grade teacher Charlene Witted.
One of the challenges teachers will be facing this year is the implementation of a newly adopted state-wide curriculum called Common Core, which will lead to more complex reading assignments, more testing and feedback and more in-depth mathematical reasoning, according to the North Carolina State Board of Education.
“This curriculum engages students more,” said Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County. “It’s a more hands-on, analytical approach to subjects. It emphasizes how things (learned in the class) will be used in real life.”
According to the state board, the new curriculum will also require benchmark tests, which will provide teachers with more feedback as to how their students are learning.
“It’s going to be different, but I’m ready,” Whitted said.
She paused as she thought of the “many” challenges she would face during the upcoming school year — but she settled on just one.
“Meeting every child’s needs,” she said with a smile.
The teachers have spent the last week preparing for the arrival of the students. They got good news recently with the rehiring of more than 40 teachers assistants who had not worked during the past school year because of state budget cuts.