Opening Day

by Kim Robins and Charlie Koenig - Posted on Sep 05, 2018 - 01:56 PM

Photo: Petsworth Elementary School students and staff were all thumbs-up on the first day of school Tuesday. Front from left are pupils Noah Helbig, Noah Moore, Juliana Jones, Kaylee Jackowski and Josslin Davenport. With them are faculty members, from left, Margaret Watkins, Ashleigh Lewis and Juliet Smith. Photo by Cindy Thomas

Petsworth Elementary School students and staff were all thumbs-up on the first day of school Tuesday. Front from left are pupils Noah Helbig, Noah Moore, Juliana Jones, Kaylee Jackowski and Josslin Davenport. With them are faculty members, from left, Margaret Watkins, Ashleigh Lewis and Juliet Smith. Photo by Cindy Thomas

Gloucester County Public Schools welcomed 4,992 students to begin the 2018-2019 academic year Tuesday, which is 152 fewer than showed up on the first day of school last fall. School officials, as usual, expect the enrollment numbers to rise over the first two weeks of school.

Enrollment at Gloucester High School was at 1,593 Tuesday, with just 310 seniors showing up and 457 freshmen. In the middle schools, Page saw 537 students report while Peasley had 566.

Botetourt had the largest elementary enrollment at 589, with five classrooms serving each of the K-5 grade levels. Abingdon had 554 children enrolled, Bethel had 465, Achilles had 398 and Petsworth had 290.

Many school buses were late to school the first day, another usual occurrence, but division assistant superintendent John Hutchinson said all of the children got to school and back home safely. One school bus had to be towed because of a flat tire Tuesday morning.

Heat and rain have had major impacts to the start of school year, according to Hutchinson. The resulting humidity with temperatures in the 90s have put a strain on school HVAC systems and made grass mowing a challenging chore for grounds workers.

The worst HVAC issues reported were at Bethel Elementary and Gloucester High School. Hutchinson said division electrician/HVAC technician Kevin Buchanan has been on top of the problems and fans were provided to classrooms most affected at Bethel.

At GHS, Hutchinson said A-hall and C-hall were a little warm. He said the outside roof temperature at the school was 103 degrees while the inside temperature in some of the A- and C-hall classrooms was 82 degrees, “about as good as it gets,” Hutchinson added.

Honeywell, which holds the division’s HVAC maintenance contract, was scheduled to provide a technician at Bethel to help with issues there yesterday. 

A Honeywell representative was also expected at GHS yesterday to add coolant to the condenser units in the cooling tower, to help the aging units cool the facility. Temperatures are forecast to moderate over the coming days, providing some relief.

In Mathews

“Oh my gosh, [it was] just an incredibly smooth” opening day, Mathews County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Welch said on Wednesday morning about the previous first day of the 2018-2019 school year.

The division didn’t have any issues with its buses, which were finished unloading students at Lee-Jackson Elementary by 8:10 a.m., Welch said. She confessed that she got to the school early to drive around the newly paved Lee-Jackson/Thomas Hunter bus loop one last time Tuesday before the buses started coming through, just to make sure it was a smooth ride.

Enrollment is “right on target … [actually] a little bit above,” which is a good thing, Welch said. A total of 1,065 students were in attendance yesterday at the division’s three schools, not counting the dozen preschool students. The 2018-2019 budget was based on an Average Daily Membership of 1,050 students.

The paving of the bus loop came “just in the nick of time,” Welch said, and the only other remaining projects include work on the Lee-Jackson playground and the chemistry lab at Mathews High School. While the lab is usable for class, she said, the gas burners have yet to be hooked up and the school is still waiting for an ADA-compliant sink. Welch said she was happy to report that the HVAC units were up and running at all three schools; something that caused problems in other divisions.

Each of the four kindergarten classes at Lee-Jackson had 16-17 students; quite an improvement from last year’s opening day, Welch said. The division added a fourth kindergarten teacher in the middle of the school year. Welch said she was excited to see all the eager faces in the classroom, ready to learn, and “laughter back in the hallways.”

All in all, she said, it was “a great opening.”