LUMBERTON — More than 23,000 students will return to Robeson County public schools on Monday and teachers, staff and administrators say they are ready for their arrival, and optimistic about what is ahead.
“Across the county, our administration, staff, and faculty members have been working diligently throughout the summer in preparation for the upcoming 2018-19 school year,” said Shanita Wooten, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.
On Monday, 1,700 teachers will take to the classrooms, and of those teachers, 140 will be new. Two-hundred-and-60 bus drivers will ensure students get to and from the schools safely.
“From maintenance of facilities and buses to professional development for teachers and principals, we have been busy,” Wooten said. “Our maintenance department worked tirelessly to ensure that all facilities received the necessary repairs and that our buses were functioning properly to prepare for the safe transportation to and from our schools each day.”
Law enforcement personnel are preparing for the school year by focusing on safe travel in and around school zones. The North Carolina Highway Patrol, in partnership with local officials, will be monitoring driver behavior both before and after school hours.
Forty schools will welcome students. Missing from the previous year are West Lumberton and Southside-Ashpole elementary schools. The Robeson County Early College at Robeson Community College has already begun classes.
Southside-Ashpole is now part of the state’s Innovative School District, and its students will arrive in uniform. The district created by the state General Assembly is tasked with turning the low-performing school into an academically successful school in five years. Bruce Major is the school’s new principal.
The Robeson County Board of Education announced the closing of West Lumberton Elementary School in June. The school was flooded by Hurricane Matthew and declared a total loss by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The students were moved to Lumberton Junior High School, but attendance dropped below 100 students and the state will no longer pay for its principal.
The school’s principal, Tara Bullard, was reassigned to Rowland-Norment Elementary School in Lumberton.
“At the school level, principals filled vacancies with the best candidates to assist in the education of our children as the custodial staffs at all of our schools cleaned the buildings and waxed floors to make our schools an inviting place for students and parents,” Wooten said.
Rosenwald Elementary School in Fairmont will be expecting about 400 students on Monday. Their teachers decorated classes and attended workshops to prepare for the students’ arrival.
Alecia McKinnon, a Rosenwald first-grade teacher, said there’s nervous anticipation when waiting for her students to walk into her classroom on the first day of school.
“You’re learning somebody new, and you want to change their lives, so you’re seeing what you can do to help them,” McKinnon said.
McKinnon is expecting 16 new students in her class.
Rosenwald fourth-grade teacher Joanne Dunsen plans a theme each year for her students. This year’s theme will be “Sparkle.”
“Everything centers around that theme,” Dunsen said. “Don’t lose your sparkle.”
With her 13 years of experience teaching at Rosenwald, and 30 years of experience teaching throughout her life, Dunsen said she’s ready for the new challenges.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the children and the excitement they bring with them,” she said.
Wooten said this school year the state has implemented new teaching standards and teachers were given multiple resources with which to effectively teach the students.
“This set the foundation for the educational value that was enhanced through various professional development sessions that were provided by the district and attended by our teachers,” Wooten said.
Additionally, the school system focused on strengthening the leadership in schools by hosting a principal’s institute. Principals reviewed policies for creating safe and encouraging schools and were given strategies for getting the most out of the teachers and students.
Wooten said she and the assistant superintendents, the Board of Education, and other district level staff, planned back-to-school celebrations and conducted a study of the facilities and available instructional resources to properly allot funds over the next school year and into the future.
“I am looking forward to all the great things that I know the faculty, staff, and students of PSRC will make happen this school year,” Wooten said.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.