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First-day head count up almost 600 over last year for Hall County Schools
Maria Wilkerson and Todd Kinsey get a snack in the media center at Sardis Enrichment School Monday. - photo by Norm Cannada

Hall County Schools opened the 2017-18 school year Monday without any serious issues and nearly 600 more students in the first-day head count than was reported a year ago.

“It appears to be one of the smoother starts I’ve seen in the last 20 years,” Superintendent Will Schofield said. “I’ve heard nothing but positive reports, and we’ve had a lot of lines in the water to make sure.”

The first-day head count released early Monday afternoon showed a total of 25,908 students in schools Monday compared with 25,323 students in the head count on the first day of the 2016-17 school year.

“Overall the numbers I had looked at were a little stronger than I anticipated,” Schofield said. The head count was up 17 students over last year in elementary school, 255 at the middle schools and 313 at the high school level.

Hall County had an official enrollment of more than 27,000 for last school year, and Schofield said he expects to pick up another 2,000 or so students over the next month.

“We don’t pay any attention to total enrollment numbers because we won’t really know those for a month,” he said. “You have 5-8 percent sick on any given day. So that’s 1,000 to 1,500 kids right there that probably just weren’t feeling well and wouldn’t have been to school whether it was the first day or the 43rd day.

“Then you have families who are in transition, finishing up summer vacations, working on custody arrangements between mom and dad,” he added. “It’s pretty darn predictable that over the next 30 days, we’ll pick up a couple of thousand kids. That’s just just the way they seem to filter in. With our population that has been a very predictable pattern.”

Schofield said he visited about seven or eight schools personally. Combined with visits from other central office administrators, Schofield said leadership visited about 25-30 school sites during the day. He said transportation issues went well except for a couple of “minor mechanical issues.”

He said there were some problems with the new car-rider line at the Academies of Discovery, which he said was due to only one lane being used for car riders who were dropped off instead of two lanes.

“We quickly went to two lanes of traffic, and it took care of it almost immediately,” Scofield said. “We did have a snafu there, but that was error on our part and I would look forward to (Tuesday) morning being much smoother.”


At Chicopee Woods Elementary, new Principal Jamie Hitzges said he had the opportunity to read and play “Apples and Bananas” on his guitar with kindergarten students on the first day of school.

“It’s gone splendidly,” said Hitzges. “The only thing that would have made it a little better would have been no rain, but overall, it has been a good day.”

He said 33 students were enrolled on Monday alone and said the front office was “pretty busy until lunch time.”

Hitzges came to the Chicopee Woods after spending five years in the district office as an assistant superintendent in Jackson County. He said he enjoyed being back in a local school.

“Seeing the children is the reason I returned to the school level,” he said. “They bring life; they bring joy and a whole lot of energy.”


At Sardis Enrichment School, the Parent-Teacher Organization sponsored an early-morning Boo Hoo/Yahoo Party in the media center with drinks and snacks for parents who needed consoling or were celebrating the first day of school..

Todd and Sarah Kinsey came into the media center after dropping off their daughter, Bentley, for the first day of kindergarten. Sarah said her daughter was doing well until she got to school “and then she started having her meltdown.”

“And then when we got into the classroom, she started talking to her teacher and started sharing about herself and her life and as soon as we said we were having to go, she had a meltdown again. And then we just had to walk away. I have to go to work when I leave here, so I can’t cry.”

Todd said it was “exciting that she’s starting school,” but added that he had “mixed feelings about it,” especially since Bentley has not yet turned 5.

“I think she’ll do all right,” he said.

Leah Brasiel brought her son, fifth-grader Isaac Clark, and daughter, third-grader Lynnsey Clark, to school Monday.

“I hate the first day of school,” she said. “I love the last day of school with all the parties and ‘let’s say goodbye’ and have fun and play in the sun and sleep in.”

Still, Brasiel said she understands that it is important that her children be in school.

“They need to be around other people their age; they need to know how to function in life,” she said. “This is good for them, and I want them to have an education, so we press through it and we go on. Mom will cry in the car, not in front of the kids.”

Maria Wilkerson said she was a little surprised that she was a little anxious after dropping off her son, John Thomas, for his first day in fifth grade.

“I thought I was going to be fine, but when I left him, it was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ It’s his last year here, too.” she said.

Cindy May, who has a third-grader, Conner, at Sardis and two middle school children, said she was celebrating the beginning of school, adding that she is a single mom who has been paying for childcare during the summer.

“It’s a lot of money,” she said.

Kim Grant, PTO president and the mother of Parker, a third-grader, said the event gave parents a place to go and “to grieve and also to find a place in the school.”

“I have a lot of parents who want to help and they don’t know how to get involved; they don’t know how they can help,” she said. “It’s exciting. It’s that new buzz in the air. You can tell that a lot of parents are very excited and they’re nervous as well.”