By CHERIL VERNON
Yellow school buses, backpacks, first-day-of-school jitters and more returned with students on their first day of the 2013-14 school year Monday. School officials from across the county reported “smooth” first days and slightly decreased enrollment.
“The first day of school went extremely smoothly,” Story Intermediate School Assistant Principal Breck Quarles said as he manned the bus line at the end of the school day on Monday. “I think this has been one of the best first days of school ever, and as a first time administrator, that’s great.”
Palestine Independent School District Superintendent Jason Marshall reported overall the district had a “good” day across all of the campuses.
“All of the students were delivered home by 5:55 p.m. tonight,” Marshall told the PISD Board of Trustees during the August meeting Monday. “That was 30 minutes later than we like, but pretty good for the first day of school.”
PISD’s enrollment stood at more than 3,100 students on Monday.
“That’s not the best numbers, but we are happy with it,” Marshall said.
Due to a new state law requiring incoming seventh graders to have certain immunizations — Varicella, Tdap and Meningococcal — 28 students were not able to enroll in school Monday, Marshall reported. These students will be able to start school once they get the immunizations.
Westwood ISD Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman described the first day of school in Westwood as “calm.”
“It was really calm. The kids were excited to be back to school and the teachers were eager to get started,” Lyman said Monday. “Everyone was getting accustomed to their new teachers and schedules. We will start hitting the academics pretty hard tomorrow.”
While it’s usually the smallest students shedding tears as they leave their parents to go to their classrooms for the first time, Lyman saw very few tears on student faces.
“I was at the primary school this morning. I saw more parents crying this year. I think the parents were a little disappointed that their children weren’t more upset to be leaving them. That’s rather uncommon,” Lyman noted.
As of Monday, WISD’s enrollment sat at 1,549, about 20 students less than the same time last year.
“It wasn’t as high as we were hoping for but we usually have a number of kids who come in after Labor Day through transfers from other states and other places,” Lyman said.
At Elkhart Independent School District, Superintendent Dr. Ray DeSpain said things went “very smoothly.”
“I was very pleased. A lot of preparation by the principals, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, etc. has gone into being ready and it went off really smoothly,” DeSpain said. “I appreciate the staff’s and the students’ efforts.”
Enrollment at Elkhart ISD was down slightly to 1,196.
At Neches Independent School District, enrollment was about the same as last year, sitting at 386.
“Our first day went great. We didn’t have any problems,” Neches High School counselor Sharee Hudson said. “We have lots of new kids.”
Slocum Independent School District Superintendent Cliff Lasiter said his first day of school as a superintendent went great.
“It was good seeing things through a different set of eyes, but it was really great first day,” Lasiter said.
Lasiter was moved up to the superintendent’s position this summer following Fred Fulton’s retirement.
Overall, SISD has an enrollment of 404 students.
“That’s down 18 students from the last day of school last year,” Lasiter said.
Lasiter said he is expecting a great school year for Slocum students.
“We hired a couple of new teachers and we are excited because we have a really strong teaching staff and great students,” Lasiter said. “The students are just awesome the way they handled themselves today. We have great parents in our district and a great school board. Lots of smiles today — that’s my favorite part — the smiles.”
Herald-Press Staff Writer Cristin Reece contributed to this report.