It’s hard to tell if the first day of school is tougher on some kindergartners or their parents.
It wasn’t that tough for Skylar Brown, who gave his parents a thumbs up when they dropped him off at his Buford Elementary School classroom. He and his classmates got started on their work.
“(I’m coloring) Buford Elementary School,” he said.
The beginning of the day was tougher for Reagan Muetzelfeld, whose parents were dropping her off at teacher Holly Campbell’s classroom. She was able to bring a smile to her teacher’s face, though, when she delivered a bouquet of flowers.
Michelle Smith was dropping off her son, Thierry Smith, and found it difficult to see her first kindergartner off.
“Seeing your first go off to kindergarten, it’s like, ‘This is the real world now,’” she said. “He was excited and a little nervous, but he did well. He shed a couple of tears, then sat down and started coloring.”
Once children were settled in their classrooms, Principal Mark Graves left his post greeting students and parents at the front door and went to the media center for morning announcements. He was broadcast live on close-circuit TV sets to talk to students about appropriate vocal volumes at various times of the day.
From the time parents were arriving in the parking lot Wednesday morning, though, he was one of the first people to greet families and hold the front door for them, wearing a shirt that read “Where It All Begins.”
“The No. 1 thing I want to do is start building relationships with the parents and the kids,” Graves said of the start of his first full year as Buford Elementary principal. “Kids get that high-five or fist bump, that increases the endorphins and makes them feel good. … Also, the parents — I think it’s important that they see that I’m available and not just at a desk all day.”
Buford Elementary was the last school to open Wednesday, as Buford High School started the domino of city schools admitting students. Buford High was followed by Buford Middle School, Buford Senior Academy and, finally, Buford Academy and Elementary.
Superintendent Robert Downs made his rounds, moving from Buford Middle to Buford Academy and finally Buford Elementary. Assistant Superintendent Melanie Reed arrived at the elementary school in time for Graves’ morning announcements after visiting Buford Senior Academy.
It was a smooth opening, Downs said, and even older students jaded to school days seemed to be positive. He remarked to Graves that he was impressed about how orderly the kindergartners were by the first bell at 8:30 a.m.
“They’re all having a great time already,” Downs said. “And they’re right on time.”
Buford Elementary School is in its first year, housing only kindergarten and pre-K students. Last year, the building also hosted first-grade classes. The extra space provides some flexibility and spare rooms for some different purposes. Pre-K enrollment has grown, spirit wear items can be stored and displayed at school events (most recently at open house), and students have options for “indoor” recess on rainy days.
There are three indoor recess rooms in the building. Indoor recess activities include but are not limited to reading, puzzles, Lego, board games and Nintendo Wii.
“We are utilizing pretty much every room in this building,” Graves said. “We got feedback from teachers — before I even got here, (assistant principal Christie Brown) asked, ‘How would they like to utilize this extra space?’ We have been working with our PTA to help fund some of the activities for the extra recess rooms.”
Space could also be utilized for teachers and paraprofessionals to work with classes in small-group activities.
Graves said the rest of his day consisted of visiting classrooms and monitoring lunch, where the school would debut a new music-based behavior management system.
Buford Elementary’s faculty has so far been impressed by Graves’ leadership and energy. At a Tuesday staff meeting, kindergarten teacher Leanne Tarleton expressed the leadership impact Graves and Brown had made before the year began. They were given a standing ovation.
“We are all so inspired by Mr. Graves’ leadership,” Tarleton said. “He has brought a new kind of energy to our school. He is energetic, passionate about children and their development, and wants to make Buford Elementary a great place for children, as well as adults, to spend the day.”