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No major hiccups as local students return to class
Hall, Gainesville both see changes in enrollment numbers
Beverly Hulsey directs students arriving at Gainesville Exploration Academy for the first day of school Monday morning. - photo by Tom Reed

There’s always first-day jitters, schedule changes, maybe getting lost on the way to the cafeteria.
And that’s just the teachers.

A little bit chaotic and a whole lot busy — that’s the first day of school, which took place Monday in the Hall County and Gainesville school systems.

Area school officials were pleased with how the 2011-2012 academic year started.

“We had a very smooth morning,” said Merrianne Dyer, the Gainesville system’s superintendent. “The Fair Street-Wood’s Mill area went perfectly to plan.”

Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School is on the Wood’s Mill campus for the next two years, as a new school is being built at the old Fair Street location.

Hall County schools had “the expected handful of buses with mechanical problems, air conditioning issues (and so forth), but our team (was) up and running ... before dawn,” said Superintendent Will Schofield.

Otherwise, “so far, so good,” he said by email at 8:50 a.m. “I’ve already been coloring with kindergarten students at Flowery Branch Elementary and McEver Arts Academy.”

Travel was a little bit slower in many places, especially along such heavily traveled thoroughfares as Spout Springs and McEver roads.

“It’s pretty much a typical first day of school — no major glitches, no accidents so far,” said Jewel Armour, Hall County’s executive director of operations.

Col. Jeff Strickland, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said there was widespread traffic congestion but nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s also a case of traffic settling down after a couple of weeks “when everybody gets into a routine,” he said.

Officer Kevin Holbrook, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department, reported a similar situation.

“We tried to be prepared as we could (Monday) morning,” he said. “We had officers strategically placed around the city to assist with traffic or any issues that may have arose.”

Armour said Hall County has “put more buses out there than we probably will end up using,” he added.

“We always have to tweak routes if there are any buses that are overcrowded or if we have buses that we can take off routes if, for example, they didn’t have as many students as we expected.”

Also, Dyer said that congestion  was greatest at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy at 1340 Enota Ave. and Gainesville Middle School, 1581 Community Way, off Jesse Jewell Parkway.

The Hall County school system counted 24,940 students on its first day of the academic year, 109 more than last year.

They “are in line with expectations,” spokesman Gordon Higgins said Monday afternoon.

Elementary schools have 11,966 students, compared to 12,142 last year; middle schools, 5,946, compared to 5,824; and high schools, 7,028, compared to 6,865.

The Gainesville school system has 6,340 students: 3,556 in elementary schools; 1,286 at Gainesville Middle School; and 1,498 at Gainesville High School.
Last year, the enrollment was reported as 6,345, but the system’s pre-kindergarten numbers were included in that number, Dyer said.

Adding in 176 pre-K students this year, the system’s enrollment is 6,516. Pre-kindergarten starts on Aug. 15.