The first day of school for Clarke County appeared to come off relatively smoothly Wednesday as summer vacation ended for about 11,500 students.
Traffic moved slowly on Milledge Avenue near Clarke Central High School, where motorists had to cope not only with students driving to school or being driven by parents, but the distraction of University of Georgia sorority rush.
Athens-Clarke police were alerted to snarled traffic on Quailwood Drive as parents brought children to classes at Whitehead Road Elementary School, said Athens-Clarke police spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez.
But police saw only one accident during the morning period when students reported to Clarke’s 21 schools — 14 elementary, four middle and three high schools. That accident, on U.S. Highway 29 North at Athena Drive, involved several vehicles, but Rodriguez said he heard of no injuries.
On the first day of classes in Oconee County last week, the sheriff’s department reported calls to numerous minor collisions as the school day got under way, none serious.
The mood was mainly one of excitement as about 600 students reported to Chase Street Elementary School, where Principal Adam Kurtz was among those greeting returning students and parents and steering them to their destinations.
“It is so exciting. It gives you so much energy,” he said.
And for many, it’s a new start, optimism replacing any disappointments or behavior issues the last year may have held.
“All the kids feel like they have a fresh start,” he said.
For some students, the first day is more about learning how to be in school and school rules than reading, writing and arithmetic.
One Chase Street teacher explained the school intercom to her pre-K students after Assistant Principal Andrea Neher got on the system to tell the school she’d be back in five minutes to lead the pledge of allegiance and make announcements.
“What’s an announcement?” asked one little boy.
The beginning of the year was much the same at other schools, including Timothy Road Elementary, where new Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means’ daughter is enrolled. Besides a new superintendent, the school district also has six new principals this year.
“We started the year off with a bang,” said Timothy Road Elementary Principal Kena Worthy. “The children are happy to be back. We were happy to see them, and they were happy to see us.”
Chase Street science teacher Chris Nogiuchi, among others, was thinking about lesson plans aimed at Aug. 21, the day of the solar eclipse.
A drive begun by UGA faculty raised enough money so that every child in Clarke public schools could receive a pair of eclipse glasses. Clarke schools will also delay dismissal that Monday when the eclipse will peak about 2:38 p.m., just as school would normally be letting out.
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