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School starts with bus challenges, otherwise smooth

Posted: August 10, 2014 - 12:04am

Sharon Durham’s kindergarten class at South Columbia Elementary School started Wednesday with first-day excitement and fanfare.

John “J.J.” Parada, 5, was excited about school and especially about riding the school bus for the first time.

“We got to see our Mom and Dad,” J.J. said of waving to his parents as the bus drove away.

Aidon Kallas, 5, wasn’t as excited. He sat in the lap of his mother, Melissa, with his teary eyes buried in her shoulder.

“It’s Mommy’s last of four,” she said. “He said, ‘I just want to stay home.’”

He was happy about his packed lunch – peanut butter with strawberry jelly, chips, pudding and a juice box.

But eventually, Aidon’s mother had to break away and leave her youngest son.

Logan Valentine, 5, was nervously stalling in the hallway, clutching his mother trying to avoid going into the classroom. But once he finally, cautiously, went inside, he discovered lots of books and toys and blocks, which he built with until his first class started.

Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway said 24,521 pupils attended the first day of school Wednesday.

Many of those students’ travels to and from school were complicated by trouble with the bus system.

“We had two buses break down, one got stuck in some wet grass,” Carraway said. “We had several driver absences that resulted in substitutes or second runs, and several had to make second runs because they had too many students.”

As with many first day troubles, Carraway said school system officials were concentrating on the problems Thursday to correct them quickly.

“We have already begun to shift students to alleviate overcrowded buses and traffic should subside over the next several days,” Carraway said Thursday morning.

For some students new to the school system, the bus problem didn’t damper the excitement of the first day of school.

Grovetown High School junior Alex Morales and cross country runner said he enjoyed not having to wear uniforms like his former school in Hinesville, Ga.

Morales and Grovetown High senior Mia Mebane, who moved to Columbia County from Kentucky, enjoyed the freedom to use electronics outside of class.

“It was really good,” Mebane said of the first day at a school of 1,800 students compared to the 400-student school she came from. “It was kind of scary because it’s so huge, but everyone is super nice. The teachers are really laid back and funny and there’s a lot of freedom I really enjoyed.

“It’s been a big transition. Overall, the school has been helpful getting everything situated.”

Carraway said lots of parents new to the area waited until the first day to enroll their children.

“We had a lobby full of people registering this morning,” Brookwood Elementary School Principal Stephanie Reese said Wednesday.

Carraway said she expected the number of enrolled students to rise over the first few days of school.

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