Brandon Rolando Ramirez

Little Brandon Bolanos Ramirez is all business and ready to go to work on his first day of kindergarten at Southaven Elementary School. Brandon was among about 750 students being welcomed to the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school as DeSoto County Schools started their 2018-19 year on Monday.

Vacation has officially ended for what is expected to be another record number of students in Mississippi’s largest school district as Monday started classes in the DeSoto County School District.  

While official figures will not be available until later in the fall, DCS Supt. Cory Uselton Monday said school campuses throughout DeSoto County would be seeing more youngsters taking part in the opening day.

“It appears our enrollment will be up again this year,” Uselton said. “We won’t know that for sure until we get some more definite numbers in the next couple of weeks.”

Last year, more than 34,000 youngsters attended schools in the county school district. It was hoped that online registration during the past several weeks would help smooth things out in the first day of school, but several students had still not been registered by Monday.  

A line of parents who had not completed registration was seen going through the process at Southaven Elementary School Monday morning, for instance.   

“Some of our schools had several parents who were registering on the first day of school,” Uselton noted. “We want to try and accommodate parents as quickly as possible but it does make it more of a challenge because their students are not able to start on that very first day like all the rest of the students.”

At Southaven Elementary, the theme for the year centered on camping. Shirts declaring “The Adventure Begins” were worn by all the faculty and staff on the first day as youngsters were greeted in the lobby and in many cases along with parents, were shown where their new classroom would be located and who their new teacher would be for the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade campus.

Assistant principal Rhonda Borden pointed out that even before the first school bell rang Monday, planning had been done to make day one go as smoothly as possible.  

“We had a Back-To-School Bash Saturday where they all brought their supplies and they got to meet their teacher,” Borden said. “Today is to get everybody into their classrooms, all nice and happy and everybody’s settled.”

Borden added Monday meant getting routines and activities down quickly.  

“Everything we’re going to be doing in May we’re going to start today,” Borden said. “Our systems and procedures will be put in place the first two weeks of school. That’s really what we concentrate on. That sets up everything for the rest of the year.”

“Our principals spend the entire summer getting ready for this first day of school and our teachers and teacher assistants put in a great deal of work,” said Uselton. “There is a lot of training that takes place during the summer for our faculty and staff and there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.”

It was not only the first day of school for the students, but in the case of Southaven Elementary kindergarten teacher Ashley Noland, it was the first day of teaching at her new classroom.  

Noland welcomed more than 20 youngsters, adding her students would start learning right away.  

“Day one we’re starting just like every other grade and in kindergarten, so it’s a full class, full day from here on out,” Noland said. “A lot of them have never been in school before, so it’s going to be a challenge just teaching them how to sit in a chair, how to sit on the carpet, how to get in line and how to not talk all of the time. But, I’m ready for it.”  

The youngsters seemed to be excited for the initial day of classes, such as third-grader Benjamin Lara.

“I’m going to learn new things,” said Benjamin, adding, “I’m going to meet new friends.”  

Benjamin’s mother Ivonne Gonzalez said he, his brothers and sisters were excited to start school.  

“They were going crazy,” Ivonne said. “There are six of them, so I’m excited too.”

Uselton said he was grateful that parents were patient as the teachers got everything going for the new year.

“I appreciate the parents’ patience with our faculty and staff as everyone gets accustomed to the new routines,” said Uselton.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.   

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