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'Remarkably smooth' first day as Hall students return to class
Schofield, Dyer pleased with the start of the first day of school
Students park at Johnson High. - photo by Tom Reed

OAKWOOD - At 8:20 a.m., the main hallway of Johnson High School was a sea of shorts, flip flops and back packs as students negotiated their way through the crowd. About 10 minutes later, the halls were virtually empty, except for a few latecomers.

"The first morning is a little like organized chaos," said Damon Gibbs, who is beginning his second year as principal at Johnson. "We have 300 or 400 students who have never been in the building before and we're trying to get them to advisement."

Gibbs admitted that he and his staff are a bit more lenient in the first couple of days when it comes to students being on time.

Down the hall, there were 12 new students who showed up on the first day without registering in advance.

Gibbs seemed to take it all in stride.

Just up the road, Merrianne Dyer was at work on her first school day as interim superintendent of Gainesville City Schools. She visited her former school, Fair Street Elementary, and Gainesville Middle School as she made her rounds Thursday morning.

"We had administrators from the district office at every school," Dyer said. "We don't have our numbers yet, but it looks like our enrollment is about where we thought it would be."

Dyer said seeing happy faces of students getting out of cars and buses was an indicator of the success of the day.

"Teachers and principals have planned well for the first day," she said. "A lot of the younger students have had brothers and sisters in the school system and felt at home. I didn't see any tears from any little people this morning."

Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield made stops at seven county schools on Thursday. He said there were the normal first day problems.

"Things have gone remarkably smooth," Schofield said. "I've seen a lot more smiling than I have crying and that's a good sign."

He said the greatest challenges come in the first days of a new year.

"For the first 10 days, we'll be balancing bus routes. We'll have buses that have 10 students too many and others that have 10 too few."

The big question remains how many students will come.

"The only anxiety I have at this time of year is how many students are going to show up. There are so many things going on in the local landscape that it will be interesting to see how many will be here when the dust settles."

Gordon Higgins, director of community relations and athletics for the Hall County school system, said the county recorded 24,237 students on the first day. That was about 2,000 below the system's projection, but Higgins explained that the estimate typically is off the mark for the first day. The estimate has been off by as much as 1,800 in the past three years, he said.

Especially with the school year starting on a Thursday, Higgins said he anticipates additional students to enroll in county schools next week.

There were no problems throughout the remainder of the day, even though passing storms popped up as school was letting out. Higgins said the storms caused no ill effects for county schools, except perhaps for delaying students getting on buses and making first-day traffic a little more of a discomfort.

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