Be careful as students return to school

Saturday, August 16, 2003

The sight of bright yellow buses lumbering down the street was almost startling Wednesday, but they served as giant reminders that summer vacation is over after what seemed like only a few short weeks.

While it may have been tough for children to return to classes or for parents to let their little ones go for the first time, the beginning of school wasn't tough on school district officials in Cape Girardeau or Jackson, the two largest districts in Southeast Missouri.

Cape Girardeau public school classes began Wednesday, and the experience was a far cry from last year. Last year, a new high school opened, and there was a districtwide reconfiguration aimed at opening up space in the elementary schools, grouping more developmentally appropriate age groups together and improving curriculum flow from year to year.

The fifth and sixth grades, once included in the district's five elementary schools, moved to a newly formed middle school in the former Central Junior High School building. After vacating Louis J. Schultz school, seventh-grade students joined eighth graders at the former Central High School building on Caruthers Avenue. And students in grades nine through 12 began attending the new high school next to the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center on Silver Springs Road.

The result: something close to chaos on that first day of school last year, as might be expected with any major change. A major problem was an incomplete Silver Springs Road leading to the new high school, meaning students had to take a back entrance. It became jammed with cars, and students were late to classes. There was confusion with bus schedules at other schools.

On Wednesday, none of that happened. The only minor hang-up was a delay in a major cafeteria renovation at Central Junior High. The district added 2,200 square feet to the cafeteria, which allowed a reduction from six lunch periods to three. The room can now seat 290 students. Because the dishwashing system was not quite completed, students had to eat off paper trays, which probably didn't make much difference to them.

On Thursday, Jackson School District's first day also went smoothly. School officials didn't report a single glitch with buildings or buses. There were just a few tearful parents who sent their children off to school for the first time, practically blinding the youngsters with camera flashes.

All of this is proof of excellent planning by administrators in both districts. Undoubtedly it will be the same experience for Scott City, where classes begin on Wednesday next week.

For those who have children in school, every day is a reminder that class is in session. Others must remind themselves and remember to drive safely and protect all the children on the streets before and after school.

If everyone does that, a good first day will translate into a good year.

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