Joyce Perry stood with a clipboard at the head of the first grade and kindergarten wing at Magnolia Woods Elementary School on Monday morning, the first day of school.
She was one of an army of longtime Volunteers in Public Schools stationed around the campus, directing parents and students to the correct classroom, and giving directions to every other conceivable location on campus.
“Bathroom? It’s right there,” Perry said to a parent who’d just stepped out of a classroom.
Principal Donna Wallette credits them and her team of teachers, administrators and staff for a smooth start to the school year for her 475 students enrolled on the first day, down slightly from the last year, she said.
The first day went well systemwide, said Keith Bromery, executive director for communications for East Baton Rouge Parish schools. Initial enrollment numbers came in at just more than 42,000 students, though those numbers are preliminary and likely to change as the year progresses, he said.
At the end of Magnolia Woods’ school day, Wallette’s team gathered in the office to discuss how things went — very quietly, for a first day — and improvements that could be made for next year.
“We have a phenomenal group here. We’ve been working together for many years, so we have it down,” Wallette said.
“But there are always ways to improve. I always make notes,” Wallette added. One of those improvements — color-coded zip ties on every child’s backpack to indicate what bus they will ride home — was a product of last year’s notes, she said.
“It worked out really well, I think,” she added, when the last bus had dropped off the last child.
It’s going to be an exciting year for everyone, Wallette said, in which every student in the school will spend time learning science, technology, engineering and math skills and at least two classrooms will participate in a pilot accelerated kindergarten and first-grade program that will incorporate STEM lessons into everyday classroom work, and will have students working on long-term classroom projects right away, said Carrie Haulard, who will be teaching the accelerated first-grade class.
“These kids are ready. We spent today reviewing last year, and there was almost none of the dreaded brain drain of summer,” she said. All projects will be collaborative with the kindergarten accelerated class and the STEM teacher, Haulard said.
The school plans to add an accelerated class every year until all grades have at least one accelerated program, Wallette said.
There are still spots open for both accelerated classes, she said.
Parents interested in testing their children for the program may call the school for more information, (225) 769-6845, visit the school at 760 Maxine Drive, or visit the school’s website, www.ebr.oncourse systems.com/school/webpage/ 12779264/1264871.
Priority will be given to families attending Magnolia Woods, Highland or Wildwood elementary schools, Wallette said.