Although it started one week later than last year, the first day of school in McDuffie County was a hot one.
"It was a great day. It could not have been any better," said Laura Hughes, the principal of Dearing Elementary School. "It could've been cooler, but it could not have been better."
McDuffie County School Superintendent Mark Petersen said he spent the day visiting each of the county's seven schools to make sure all was well. Dr. Petersen said he enjoyed a "really nice lunch" of hamburgers and watermelon at Thomson Elementary School.
"The day was outstanding," the superintendent said. "Very smooth at all schools. ... I'm pretty proud of the efforts of our staff to make sure everybody got in and got to the right place. There were lots of smiles today."
The only concern Dr. Petersen had during the first day was the traffic. He spent the morning at Thomson High School where officials worked with the overflow of traffic, and said he planned to return later in the week to see if it was any better.
"I think it was a little bit of traffic everywhere," he said. "The first few days there are a lot of parents who bring their children instead of letting them ride the yellow Cadillacs, and so... they've just got to feel more comfortable about leaving their children at the front door. But that's a parent thing, and we'll do what we can to help them."
Unofficial enrollment numbers were just shy of last year's 4,300, Dr. Petersen said. He said students will continue to trickle in until Labor Day.
"It seems people don't register their kids or come to school early any more," he said.
But the teachers and staff were ready for the kids to return. A kick-off rally was held in the Thomson High School auditorium last Wednesday for the entire faculty and staff.
Faculty members were able to visit with various vendors, including insurance companies and investment advisors, in the mall area of the school before the rally. Then, the music began as select members of the Thomson High Marching Band opened the rally with the national anthem. The middle school principal dressed as the Six Flags Man danced around and upped the tempo of the rally, followed by an entertaining skit spoof of the Jerry Springer Show which touted the benefits of the Renaissance program.
"When I was in the Emanuel County system, we just held a meeting where we sat around and talked about what we were going to do," said School Board Member Ella Mae Samuels. "I've never been to anything like this before. It was wonderful."
After the skit, various department heads explained issues and gave reports. The common theme was the system's open door policy.
"If there's something we can do for y'all, please call and let us know," said Human Resource Director Roger Williams. "And even if you think we can't do it, still call us and we'll figure out how to do it."